Inside the Character’s Head

The narrative is a very important part of a novel for obvious reasons.  If there were no narrative, it would be like a script for a play or movie.  But what happens in the narrative is mostly a description of the action, the setting, the people, and also their thoughts.  It’s the thoughts that I find difficult to create a good balance.

As I’ve been reading novels, I’ve noticed different writing styles when it comes to the narrative, word choice, and so on.  I finished a book by Peter F. Hamilton and started one by Terry Brooks.  The style difference is so vast that it’s easy to see what they do differently.  I find that Hamilton is very wordy when it comes to technical descriptions.  He uses a lot of complex language that could go over the heads of some readers.  He does a good job with characters’ thoughts, as well.  I find he meshes the thoughts with the narrative very well.

Terry Brooks, on the other hand, uses the narrative to talk about the characters’ thoughts and feelings the majority of the time.  It feels like he tells a lot more than other authors.  I’ve always been told to show, not tell.  He tells a lot about what happened in the previous book, if it’s a trilogy, and he tells about the character’s background and what they’d done in the past.  It’s not that it’s bad, he seems to make it easy to read and understand.  However, he’s been criticised in the past for his writing style.  But I cannot deny that his characters are likable and sympathetic.  I actually really like his characters and have been a fan of his for quite some time.  While reading his books, I’ve noticed that he shares the thoughts of the characters a lot.  You know what they’re thinking all the time.

While Hamilton jumps from character to character in a single scene, betraying their thoughts and feelings to the reader, Brooks tends to focus on on only a handful of characters’ thoughts.  I know what everyone’s thinking in Hamilton’s books.  There’s no mystery in that.  But Brooks’ books are more selective, and I don’t always know what others are thinking.

When it comes to my own writing, I prefer to stick with one character in each scene.  I don’t want to use the third person omniscient point of view.  I want to get into one character’s head, not everyone’s.  But that’s just my style.

What do you think?  Which do you prefer?