Hi Guys,

Any advice on how to 'flesh-out' a narrator?

Many thanks in advance.


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Tricky.  Unless you can switch to another character, your narrator has to reveal himself through his story. He may do so by the choices he makes and the reasons he gives for his choices. He also reveals himself in his attitude towards certain people and in his actions.

Thanks a mill. I thought I'd done this. I'm really not sure what my editor wants as he suggested using flashbacks to show more of the character's past. I hate flashbacks.

Another point is, the narrator is not the main protagonist.

I'll keep trying. I already gave him an ex girlfriend. Now I'm giving him a phobia for something...Not sure what. :-)

You can also characterize the narrator by what he or she chooses to relate, and how it's described. For example, a narrator who personally doesn't know or care about color shades will describe something as "purplish" or "a shade of purple," not "lavender" or "violet." He may say a man's jacket is cut to end at the waist, "like the WWII Army uniforms," instead of referring to it as an "Eisenhower jacket." The quality of word choices and grammar can also help.

I already did this. :-( I guess I'm not doing it enough. 

This really helped me better create "real" fully developed people:


"Though not all Method actors use the same approach, the "Method" refers to the practice—influenced by Constantin Stanislavski and created by Lee Strasberg—in which actors create characters by drawing on their own emotions and memories, aided by a set of exercises and practices including sense memory and affective memory. Method acting is similar to Stanislavski's system.

Wow! My colleague bought me a copy after seeing me in a stage play! I'm an IT Manager/ Project manager, but I've done five acting jobs since I got invited to audition for a part last year.  

Not o start trouble or anything, but how much do you trust his editor? Encouraging more flashbacks seems to go against the conventional wisdom. Is he (or she) providing any more detailed feedback?

Well, he was hired by my publishers and I trust them. And I agree with all his other comments on the ms, except this one and another. And this is my first novel, and my first editorial process, so I'm mindful to be well-behaved :-). 

The thing is, the narrator is not the main protagonist. He is a Briton in Nigeria for the first time and he quickly gets himself involved is a mountain of nastiness. The main protagonist is a woman who saves him, amongst other things. She's fully developed.

It gets trickier. I've used a mix of alternating first-person and omniscient voices. The editor likes this but he wants me to add a prologue or rewrite the opening chapter in third-person. I'm not sure about this. The story starts where and when the inciting incidence occurs and the narrator is there.  And, two things I hate in a novel are flashbacks and prologues. 

This sounds good to me.  Omniscient pov has gone out of style a bit in favor of third person close. I have once rewritten a monster of a novel to change pov. I don't really recommend rewriting the whole novel, but you might consider third p. next time.

Readers don't like prologues that contain back story. Why is the editor so intent on back story?

Well, I say Omniscient but it is close third person, and my editor likes it. It likes it so much that he thinks the story should start with this - close third person. That would however mean rewriting the first chapter only (as he suggested) so that it's not narrated. I am reluctant to do this as the narrator is in the scene. It would be too jarring, I believe, for him to suddenly start talking to us in the third chapter.

I actually trust my editor. To be fair, the prologue and flashbacks are suggestions; I simply haven't considered rejecting them.   

Yes, well, I recall vividly my own doubts over editorial "suggestions." One is afraid to lose a publisher over non-cooperation.

My fear. 


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