Guest Post: Dual Narratives

I don't know about you lovely lot but as an avid bookworm I have found that more and more authors are choosing to write from multiple points of view. Now, this is in no way a new thing, authors have been doing this for decades as it's a great way to show a more rounded story. However, this year I think over three quarters of the books I have read have been told through two or more perspectives and I couldn't help but wonder WHY? 

So, I put a little message out on twitter asking if their were any authors who would be willing to explain why they write this way and the lovely Louisa Reid, author of Black Heart Blue and Lies Like Love, got back to me. This is Louisa's thoughts on the dual narrative and I hope that you find it as insightful as I did. 

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Dual Narratives
by Louisa Reid

If you read Black Heart Blue or Lies Like Love you might think that these stories were planned as double narratives from the outset. Oddly enough, that wasn't the case. I'm not the sort of writer who really enjoys a lengthy planning process, preferring to dive in and see where the characters and story take me, and that goes for the question of who's going to tell my story too. So when I began Black Heart Blue I was writing Rebecca's story only, and the same went for Audrey in Lies Like Love. I think that's why these characters' voices are predominant in the novels.

However, if you've read either book then you'll know that both protagonists are having a pretty desperate time. It gets quite exhausting working on something that is really intense and emotional and I thought the same would be true for any reading experience of the novels. So once I'd finished writing Rebecca I knew that there was no way her story could stand on its own - it felt so relentlessly dark - and the obvious thing was to then write from Hephzi's perspective to balance out the story and bring a different tone to the narrative. Because Rebecca and Hephzi are twins it makes sense that they both get the chance to tell their side of the story, anyway, and I writing Hephzi's version of events made an interesting change as her voice provides such contrast. I felt the double narrative gave me the chance to round out Hephzi and hopefully make her an equally complex character.

With both books the dual narrative serves a variety of purposes. It creates dramatic irony: the reader often knows so much more than the characters and this therefore heightens the tension as we're willing Leo in Lies Like Love, for example, to dig a bit deeper and find out what's really happening with Audrey. As I already mentioned it gives the story more texture as the voices usually contrast. What's important is that both narratives are compelling and hold the reader's attention equally. I usually make my chapters quite short so that the reader isn't frustrated and desperate to get back to their preferred narrator (if they have one). A second narrative voice can also enable a sub-plot to be developed which in some way echoes that of the main, so in Lies Like Love Leo's relationship with his mother adds an interesting counter-point to Audrey and Lorraine's difficulties. Another interesting and effective way of using the double narrative is to have one of your voices disappear: this can be hugely useful in creating suspense, dramatic tension and a feeling of foreboding in the reader. I also like the opportunities for playing with different time-schemes that the dual or multiple narrative affords (Sebastian Faulk's Birdsongsprings to mind here).

I'm working on something now which again is written from two perspectives and I'm really enjoying it. I can't imagine writing something that doesn't include two narrative voices; I think I've got a bit addicted to the style and it's one that has heaps of avenues I haven't yet explored. For example, the links between my narrators have so far been really obvious, but it might be nice to try writing something where the two characters and strands seem totally unrelated, only to bring them together at a later point in the plot.

A few of my  favourite YA double/multiple narratives of recent years:
  • Heroic by Phil Earle
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • Trouble by Non Pratt
  • Pop by Catherine Bruton

A big thank-you to Louisa for writing such a great post! 
Don't forget to check out her latest book, Lies Like Love, by clicking the cover photo bellow. 

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