Quora answer: What are the different narration techniques in fiction? What are the pros and cons for each technique?

Feb 04 2012

I am interested in Meta-novels. And in my dissertation I offer as proof that there are basically four viewpoints on phenomena that appear in consciousness which show up in the novel which are Writer/Reader//Narrator/Character. I offer it as proof that Schemas are fundamental. See http://about.me/emergentdesign.net. I think this formulation is analogous to the definition of the world from Socrates taken up by Heidegger: Heaven/Earth//Immortals/Mortals which is the positive fourfold. See my Fragmentation of Being and the Path beyond the Void at http://works.bepress.com/kent_palmer. Techniques of Narration have to exist within the matrix that supports the existence of narration itself. And that framework is the basis of the Meta-novel where Writer, Reader, Narrator, and Character come into conversation about the creation of the novel itself. Novel means something new. The creation of the novel is an emergent event. See my first dissertation on the Structure of Theoretical Systems in relation to Emergence at http://archonic.net/disab.html. So if we are going to look into styles of narration we should first look into what Narration is. Narration is the projection of an omniscient voice within the text of the novel. The narrator is equal to the Immortal in the fourfold of the world. The writer is Heaven, and the Reader Earth. The character is mortal and the Narrator is Immortal. So the group of characters that appear in the meta-novel is a simulacrum for the world’s structure. Now this is the structure of the world in the Mythopoietic era. Socrates is looking back at the Mythopoietic era nostalgically from the Metaphysical era where we find ourselves entrapped hoping for its end that never seems to come, like the characters in Waiting for Godot. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waiting_for_Godot

Of course, Waiting for Godot is a meta-novel presented as a play. Pozo and Lucky represent the Master/Slave dialectic so famous in Hegel. They represent the relation between Narrator and Character. Vladamir and Estragon represent the Writer and Reader. Godot is the missing transcendental ground, and the boy who is the messenger is the immanence, i.e. the embodiment of the transcendental that is all that Vladamir and Estragon are going to actually see of the transcendental for which they are waiting. They are all in an unspecified place, and at an unspecified time, Waiting, Waiting. Reader and Writer change places, Character and Narrator change places. Everything circles around, Godot never comes, the boy always appears, Pozo and Lucky continue to circulate, and Vladamir and Estragon don’t go anywhere, but wait in anticipation of the end of the Metaphysical era. Heidegger says the metaphysical era is the fleeing of the Gods who ruled in the mythopoietic era, and it wont be over until the last god, Godot, has fled. Or perhaps he has already fled and that is why he is not showing up. Reader and Writer are both human and outside the story. Narrator and character are both inhuman fictitious masks of humans, but one knows the thoughts of the other and the destiny of the other. However, as in Four Quartets narrators can change in different stories. The omniscience of the Narrator is in sharp contrast to the finitude of the character. The activity of the writer is in sharp contrast to the receptiveness of the reader. Vladamir is the active protagonist while Estragon is his sidekick and more receptive of the two. The four together represent the meta-novel and the structure of the world in its barest essentials. Those that are waiting for Godot actually see the boy who is a messenger for the transcendent in immanence. Nothing happens in the play, it is like No Exit of Sartre, but rather we see the primal scene of the Well and the Tree from the Indo-European worldview. There is a tree on the stage but the wells are missing, because the sources (wells) have dried up. We are when we view the scenes of the play we are looking at the structure of  the world though an existentialist lens. There are only two kinds of relations equal and hierarchical. Here we see them both negated, by the reversal in one case and by the impotence of the equal relation in the other case.

So if you realize that the Narration has to take place in this world structure seen in the meta-novel but also played out in myriad ways in all novels, then it is possible to understand more deeply what the various narrative styles mean. Each person plus the non-person “it” or “they” may be any of the four viewpoints. It is this fundamental permutation of the persons with the viewpoints that creates the variety of styles by the interaction of language with the four fold nature of the world-structure. When the written word in the novel says I it may be the writer, the reader, the character or the narrator talking about himself. When you is said it could be talking about any of those viewpoints. When the third person is used that is most likely the narrator talking, but actually could also be any of the viewpoints that are being discussed by the voice which is speaking. In Hegel for instance we see this structure. There is sense certainty (the character) and there is self-consciousness which is objective looking at sense certainty, which is the narrator. There is also Hegel taking up the position of others whose positions he is explaining, and there is Hegel himself criticizing those positions. It is difficult in the Phenomenology of Spirit/Ghost/Mind to know which of the viewpoints are operative at any one point in the text. This this ultimate meta-novel of the rise of self-consciousness and absolute spirit represented by the state, has all the point of view of the meta-novel as did the first novel Don Quixote   (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Quixote). In Don Quixote the second part is a response to a fake second part which he makes fun of in the actual second part. It was a conversation with a reader turned writer and imitator. It is interesting that the first novel is also a meta-novel.

So if we use the middle English declension we can see this as the basis for categorizing the voice of the various viewpoints.

Middle English Declension http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thou#Declension

First person:
Writer I
Reader I
Narrator I
Character I

We becoming royal we if used by an individual:
Writer we
Reader we
Narrator we
Character we

Informal Second Person:
Writer thou
Reader thou
Narrator thou
Character thou

Formal Second Person:
Writer (ye) you
Reader (ye) you
Narrator (ye) you
Character (ye) you

Third Person:
Writer s/he
Reader s/he
Narrator s/he
Character s/he

Third non-person (slave)
Writer it
Reader it
Narrator it
Character it

Third person plural:
Writer they
Reader they
Narrator they
Character they

There are seven voices and four viewpoints that gives 28 possible narrative stances. Now it just happens that this is a perfect number like 6 where all the parts add up to the whole exactly. And it happens that this perfect number is the number of paths or pairings between eight things like the trigrams for instance. So all the narrative stances that give voice to the views are the relations between eight eventities. We can think of these eventities like the hexagram as a stack of structural opposites that define a situation. But we can also think of them as interpenetrated 2^3 states of different qualities.

What we need to keep in mind is that the human brain can think to about five meta-levels of relationship before it loses track, so it can think he thinks that she thinks that he thinks . . .  up to the fifth meta-level which corresponds with the fifth meta-level of Being. At each of these metalevels we can use all seven declensions and all four viewpoints. Since the aspects of Truth, Reality, Presence and Identity are different at each of these five levels, that means that besides each level becoming harder to think, it is harder to place the declensions in each level.

So he (being) thinks that she (pure) thinks that they (process) think that thou (hyper) thinks, that you (wild) think that we (ultra.existence) think that it (manifest) thinks goes just beyond the bound of the thinkable, if the first level is ontic. The aspects are different at all those levels. So you can see that there is a vast open space for the permutations of narrative styles. And that is only if we shift meta-levels of Being at each recursive level which is not necessary.

So narrative styles are just about endless. And probably many of these styles have never been explored in the whole history of the novel up to this point, because the field of possibilities has not been explored.

Descartes said “I think therefore I am.”

So we can say I am, we are, s/he is, thou art, you are, it is, they are.

We see in this the play of the indo-European roots of Being that appear in Anglo/Saxon. But actually those roots are as follows:

Roots of Being:
sei/sey (sindon)
es (sindon)
er (sindon)
bheu (beon)
wes (wesan)
wer (wesan)

Heidegger taps into the first few with the Sein/Seyn (Being/Beyng) distinction. Es is related to essence, presence. Er is related to Ereignis, bheu is physus, becoming. Wes is wessen. and Wer is werothan not mentioned by Heidegger.

If we go back to old English (Anglo/Saxon) that seems to be more archaic than high German somehow, we can see that any of these roots of Being can be called upon and basically they are distinguished by the sindon which is above the bheu (beon) and the wesan that is below the bheu. But actually each root is its own level within the roots of Being. Sindon and Wesan are duals on either side of the bheu (physus) but wesan is deeper. Sei and Sey as Sein and Seyn are the surface phenoment that aries from the es (presence, essence) Deeper still is the Er of Ereignis, which is related to movement. Bheu (Physus) is related to unfolding. Below the bheu there is the deeper reflections of the es and er in the Wes and Wer that is in the wesan.

See table of pronouns
See table of forms of Being

This is the richness we have lost as the stances that used to exist in our worldview related to Being. All these stances suggest the possibility of a corresponding narrative style now lost in the oblivion of our changing language. A good introduction to the changes in language which over large scale time every aspect changes like the tattvas or dharmas, are the books and lectures of John McWhorter. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_McWhorter. Everything changes in language, and writing it merely slows this process down somewhat. It is an utter flux as suggested by Heraclitus that all things are ultimately. But it is in that flux that the linguistic structures that affect the possible styles of narrative are hidden.



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