I am pantser in my writing. I get a story, or an idea, or a character conversation into my head and start writing. Being a pantser, I usually do not make conscious narrative choices during the writing of the first draft. I just hang on for the ride.
However, once I have a feel for the story, I find that there are style elements that are very important to me. I can change certain things, but I can’t change others. For example point of view and tenses are important to me.
Let me show you what I mean. mM dystopian trilogy ‘Patrotia’ is written in third person, past tense.
I considered to put it into first person, present tense. This would be easily doable, because the third person pov is a limited one. Aside from one minor exception, which could be changed if needed, the story always stays with the main character Julie. The story does not rely on an omnipresent view.
Still, once I tried it, I could not do it. It felt wrong for the story. Changing it was physically impossible. I felt like I was encountering a magnet with a strong equal pole. It would not budge.
This was not my inability to write in first person, present tense. I can do that with other stories. It was just that this story did not fit this style. So my subconscious decision was reenforced by later research and experimentation.
Another choice of mine is, that I have strong female characters, who have their own view of the world. I enjoy writing women who I would like to meet and be friends with. I like to find out what makes them tick, what they have overcome and how they think. I also like to give them a bunch of supporting and opposing characters to show me how they react to those. Fully developed characters with many layers and depth are very important to me. And female protagonists feel the most comfortable to me.
A narrative choice I am still grappling with is the amount of description deemed necessary. I am one of those impatient people who do not like to linger on the descriptions of places and things. This is true for both my reading and my writing. However, I need to be careful not to leave out too much. For I know the places by heart in my imagination when I write. I need zero description, because I absolutely know what the place looks like.
My readers do not. I need to be kind enough to take them along and give them something to hold on to; to help them get their own imagination going. Of course, what they see in their mind’s eye will differ from what I saw. But just handing them a whole lot of nothing is just not nice.
Another one of my narrative choices is, that character development usually also involves traveling. This might be rooted in my love of fantasy stories and the many Hero’s journey books I have read. It makes sense to me to change location to achieve a goal or meet a new character. There is a little bit of the German: “Der Weg ist das Ziel” (The journey is the destination) involved as well.
It would be a real challenge to me to write a book where the protagonist stays in the same place the whole time. Of course, knowing that, I might just try it out one day to see how I’m doing.
What are your narrative choices? Do you have preferred modes of operations? Do you make your choices consciously?