After the extremely wonderful news yesterday that Laline Paull’s The Bees has been longlisted for the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction, we’ve been thinking about unusual narrators.
The Bees is the story of Flora 717: a heroine who, ‘in the face of an increasingly desperate struggle for survival, changes her destiny and her world.’ And who also happens to be a bee.
There are lots of great examples of novels which make use of unconventional narrators: Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red features the POVs of a wide and varied cast, including a coin and the colour red, whilst of course Richard Adams’s Watership Down follows a group of anthropomorphised rabbits.
A narrator doesn’t just tell the story – they shape it too. And while using an unusual narrator can pose many challenges, it can also open up all kinds of possibilities.
With that in mind, here are a couple of exercises for you to try:
If you haven’t got something on the go, or you fancy trying something new
Choose a significant historical event, and write a 500 word story around it, using the point of view of an animal who was present.
What limits does the narrator have in terms of understanding events and expressing them? And what opportunities does that present for you, the writer?
If you’re currently working on a manuscript
Select two chapters of your work-in-progress and rewrite them from the point of view of a non-human narrator. It could be a pet or an entirely inanimate object.
Does this change the emphasis of the story and the way you feel about the characters? Does it cast a new light on certain elements?
We have new creative writing exercises for you every Wednesday. And if you can’t wait a whole week, join us every Friday morning for our QuickFic competition – write a story based on that week’s prompt for a chance to win a stack of books.