Friday, 8 April 2016

Susin Nielsen Blog Tour: Writing Two Narrators

Welcome to my stop on Susin Nielsen's UK blog tour! Today I have the lovely Susin herself guest posting a piece about what it's like to write two narrators.


What’s It Like Writing With Two Narrators? by Susin Nielsen

Until We Are All Made of Molecules I had never written a book with two narrators. I really wanted to write a story about a blended family. And if it was going to be blended, two narrators seemed like the way to go. Stewart – intellectually gifted, socially awkward, empathetic – was the voice that came to me first. I remember having fun with the first iteration of the opening chapter as I began the journey of discovering his voice.

Ashley was more challenging. I knew she needed to be, in many ways, the polar opposite of Stewart. I knew she would be much more self-centered, socially gifted, academically not so much. It wasn’t until I’d been playing with her opening chapter for a while that I had a revelation: I had met her before. She had been a secondary character in one of my earlier books, Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom. In that novel, she had been little more than the stereotypical mean girl. Suddenly I couldn’t wait to dig in, and dig deeper, into that character.

So – as you can tell from their micro-descriptions – I rather intentionally started out with two characters who, at first glance, could be perceived as stereotypes; then, chapter by chapter, started stripping back their layers.

I loved writing Stewart because he is just such a decent human being. But I loved writing Ashley, too. Beyond having fun with her malapropisms, I had a lot of sympathy for her. Most readers seem to warm to her; I’ve had a few people tell me they couldn’t stand her. If I’m “totally one hundred percent honest,” to use Ashley’s phrase, maybe I have sympathy for her because I remember being her in so many ways. She is in that teenage girl swirl of hormones and insecurity, and it results in some really crap behavior. Um … been there, done that …

From a technical perspective, writing two narrators was a unique challenge. On the plus side, I really only had to write half a length of a book for each of them. :) The challenges were making sure I kept the story propelling forward every step of the way. I tried hard not to have too much repeat information, unless it was crucial to get it from both perspectives, in which case I’d try to tell it from a different entry-point into the scene.

I also had to be very careful to make their voices entirely distinct. Thank goodness for my great editors, because they found a few slips, where I had given certain expressions to both of my narrators.

 Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

We Are All Made of Molecules and The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen are both out now and available in all good bookshops. 

For more from Susin follow her on Twitter @susinnielsen and check out her website
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