Who’s telling tales?

I’ve written before about telling the story, being the narrator, and deciding who is doing that in what I write – is it me, Lois Elsden? is it one of my characters? Is it from the point of view of one or several characters?

I guess I’m thinking about this because in my latest novel, Lucky Portbraddon, there was a mixture of these different aspects, and i had to be quite clear in writing the different parts, clear in my own mind who was pushing the story out to the reader. In my next novel (yes I’m thinking about that already!) the story is told just from one point of view by a narrator, and everything is through his eyes and his experiences.

I wrote this some time ago but it illustrates what I mean.


This is an important aspect of your story and is often established in the opening.

So, who is telling the story?

  • Is it you? The unknown all-seeing narrator, who knows what is going on in every character’s mind and who can see it from everyone’s point of view?
  • Is it from a single character’s perspective and if so is the character a main player or an observer? Is the story told in the first person?
  • Do several characters tell the story in the first person?
  • Is the story told from several different points of view? If an incident occurs the different characters would understand different things, feel different things, maybe even see different things.

In a short story all these aspects are of vital importance in order for the reader to properly understand and see what the writer wants them to see.

The unseen narrator:

1. ‘Loving Judah’

They sat at the kitchen table, the flame from the candle flickering slightly in the draught. It was a round, fat creamy coloured candle set in a saucer between them. It was very cold, the range hadn’t been lit or had gone out or… but who cares. They stared at the flame as if hypnotised, utterly silent, absolutely still. There was nothing to say and there was little point in doing anything.

2. ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’

The first person to arrive at the cemetery stepped cautiously through the gates just after five in the morning. Her trainers left their marks on the path as she hesitantly walked towards the western end. The dew was heavy, the grass beaded and bent as if burdened.

First person narrative:

1. ‘Flipside’

“Kill the lights! Kill the lights!” he hissed and jumped across me and grabbing the neck of the lamp, yanked it from its socket and hurled it across the room so it smashed against the far wall.

He bounded from the bed and went to the window and, standing back against the wall, peeped out and I was afraid that he might break the glass to fire from it.

2 ‘Radwinter’

I knocked on Paul’s door and I must admit I felt rather glum; I shouldn’t have been surprised that Rebecca had something else to do and that involved the car, so I’d had to catch the bus. I’d asked if she could drop me off, but she said as we live on one side of Strand and Paul lives on the other, it wasn’t convenient as she was going in the other direction. I was so cross I didn’t even ask where she was going, and it was only as I sat on the number 403 that I wondered.

Single character point of view

1 ‘The Story of Frederico Milan’

“Hello,” Frederico said to Jerome who was slumped in a wheelchair, his eyes glazed, a ribbon of drool hanging from his chin.

What else could he say to Jerome who didn’t even know he was here, according to the nurse. Perhaps he should go and speak to the elderly lady wearing a rabbit onesie… but the nurse was helping her from her seat and leading her from the room. Frederico looked round to the other silent figures, some in wheelchairs, some in ordinary upright armed chairs.

2 ‘night vision’

Beulah realised she was lost and had a flash of fantasy about being totally lost and Neil, anxious and concerned, coming to find her… But of course that really was nonsense, she thought unhappily.

She wandered on, climbing slightly and hit a track and followed it until it disappeared and she was wandering aimlessly once more. The trees were in full leaf, but a sombre and dreary green in the grey afternoon light. There was no wind and fancifully it seemed to Beulah that she was watched. She had no notion of time, and didn’t care.

©Lois Elsden 2016

All my books, including my latest Lucky Portbraddon, and those mentioned above can be found here:


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