A Novel Observed #6 – Choice of Voice

The Planning Stage

The Planning Stage

As promised in my post on voice, I have written a few opening paragraphs of NT2S&S using two different voices.

  • The first is in the third person, past tense.
  • The second is in the first person, present tense.

If you have the time to scan through these two versions and let me know which you prefer and why, that would be very helpful. I may even create a pole on my Facebook page (if I can work out how…)

Version 1: 3rd Person, Past Tense

The bedroom window looked out on an unbroken canvas of brickwork, and it was the most wonderful sight in the world. At least, it was to Sebastian. Every morning, before breaking into the day’s routine, he spent a few minutes gazing at the expanse of bright red with its lattice of creamy mortar, marvelling at the patchwork of oranges, greys and browns. There were no curtains or blinds to obscure this glorious view – there were no windows in the wall through which people might peer in at him – and at night Sebastian would often lie in bed looking out at the brickwork, lit up by a nearby security light, and feel safe. The stability of this unchanging vista reminded him that he was safe here in the city, where concrete, steel and brick had tamed, even conquered, the wild terrors of nature.

It wasn’t that Sebastian was opposed to nature – he understood that the food he ate had some kind of connection to the world beyond London, but it was as distant a connection as between the treacherous waters of the oceans and a cool pint of beer, and he was happy to keep it at that distance – but life in the city was all he had ever known. It was all he wanted to know. The city kept him safe, and the wall outside his window was a constant reminder of this.

Today, however, he had no time for the view. He had fifteen minutes to pack and get out of his apartment or he would be late for the train. Not that he’d mind being late. In fact, he’d like nothing more than to avoid the journey altogether, but he knew he wouldn’t get let off that easily. His friends would make sure of that.


Version 2: 1st Person, Present Tense

My bedroom window looks out on an unbroken canvas of brickwork, and it is the most wonderful sight in the world. At least, it is to me. Every morning, before breaking into the day’s routine, I spend a few minutes gazing at that expanse of bright red with its lattice of creamy mortar, and marvel at the intricate patchwork of oranges, greys and browns. There are no curtains or blinds to obscure this glorious view – there aren’t any windows in the wall through which people might peer in at me – and at night I often lie in bed looking out at the brickwork, lit up by a nearby security lamp, and feel safe. The stability of this unchanging vista is a constant reminder that I am safe here in the city, where concrete, steel and brick has tamed, even conquered, the wild terrors of nature.

It’s not that I’m opposed to nature – I understand that the food I eat has some kind of connection to the world beyond London, but it’s as distant a connection as between the treacherous waters of the oceans and a cool pint of beer, and I’m happy to keep it at that distance – but life in the city is all I’ve ever known. It’s all I want to know. The city keeps me safe, and that wall outside my window is a constant reminder of this.

Today, however, there’s no time for the view. I’ve got scarcely fifteen minutes to pack and get out of my apartment or I’m going to be late for the train. Not that I’d mind being late. In fact, I’d like nothing more than to avoid the journey altogether, but I know there’s no way I’d get let off that easily. My friends would make sure of that.


Please feel free to comment below or email me or scribble your thoughts on the back of an old gas bill and shove them under my door…

Posted in A Novel Observed
6 comments on “A Novel Observed #6 – Choice of Voice
  1. Ian Gregory says:

    PHIN
    I preferred the first one

  2. Barbara Hall says:

    I much prefer the first version. It flows more and I cant wait for the next bit. Very Good.

  3. Mark B says:

    I like the first person. I find it more engaging, and it has more energy. I’m not sure I could hack it all the way through the novel though.

    • Phin Hall says:

      Hi Mark – I agree about the energy. I think it’s something to do with the immediate intimacy of looking through the narrator’s eyes. It’s a bit like playing a racing game on the computer, where you have the choice of seeing the race from the driver’s perspective or from a short distance behind the car.

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