Every story needs a storyteller. But the same story will be very different depending on who tells it. It isn’t enough to tell a story–we have to decide who tells the story we want to write.
For example, let’s say there’s a fascinating story of a roguish, worldly archeologist who seeks out ancient ruins in dangerous places and leaves a trail of broken hearts in his wake. If he were our storyteller, oh, the exciting stories he could share. Imagine the tales of lush lands, delicious foods, narrow escapes, love affairs and career-defining discoveries! Sounds like a fun, thrilling read, doesn’t it?
Now imagine the same story is being told by the neglected daughter of said aforementioned worldly archeologist. The daughter who was born to one of the man’s many mistresses, who was bounced from boarding house to boarding house, and who saw her father maybe once a year, but knew plenty of his escapades to share them. Hmm…Why do I think that story would be more heart-breaking than thrilling?
So who should tell this story? There are, of course, options to point of view. In third person, you could present both narratives, the father and the daughter, but maybe you’d rather choose one and use first person. To be simplistic for a moment, let’s say you want to write a thriller–so you might choose the father as storyteller. But if you are inclined to write the story of a daughter’s search to reconnect with her absent father, a story clearly more based on emotional impact, you would choose to have the daughter be the storyteller. Or maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to do both. The point is that the same story can be told and impact the reader in very different ways depending on which character tells it.
And this is reason number 12,004 why I love writing.