Believing that limited choices foster creativity, I decided to tell my entire tale from single character’s point of view. Using the illeistic third, rather than first person narrative, he occasionally reveals himself in a journal he keeps in first person. This detaches the character from himself a little, which does create some distance from the reader, but permits him to be more selective in his observations, and immediacy is achieved through the primacy of dialogue. A first person narrative requires a stream of consciousness, a constant awareness of everything going on within and without, and makes dialogue more difficult to manage.
A case in point is Norman Rush’s Mating, which I have been reading of late. This National Book Award winner is written almost entirely in first person narrative, and while it is a vivid narrative, all of the supporting characters are developed through the filter of the narrator and seldom permitted to speak for themselves. All speech is reported speech in the narrator’s voice. While the narrator comes across as a very complex and interesting character, the others do not have same complexity and the reader understands them only through the limited omniscience of the narrator. While this may be effective for expositing how little we may know about others, I prefer my characters be revealed as other people might see them, through their transactions with themselves and each other. The narrator is revealed through detached self-observation, dialogue and monologue, journals and inner monologues, as having varied personas, each of which speaks with a different voice. When he comes to his epiphany, by means of self-detached observation, it seems natural that he would do so.
In the first several chapters of the novel, the story is very clearly that of a man removed from his element, contending, for the sake of survival, with people he has nothing in common with and doing his best to fake it. He has a false populist air about him, intended to be reminiscent of certain recent political figures, which may be convincing initially, but proves to be his undoing.
The chapters that deal with the protagonist’s journey are interspersed with others that deal with his eventual love interest as she makes her way southwest from New York on her way to her fated meeting with Eddie, but ostensibly to Los Angeles. Her story is also told, through the device of a diary, which comes into narrator’s possession well after the events in the novel take place.
Working from the character’s notes, and addressing her always as you, the narrator augments the diary entries from his own imagination. The second person narrative seemed like the best solution to the problem of the limited point of view. Switching from illeistic third to normal third person narrative would have caused the reader the think it was written from a more omniscient POV, which I definitely did not want.