The Heart of Writing

Helping you to connect with the writer within

Playing With Narrative


On 4th June, Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction announced Eimear McBride as the winner for her debut novel “A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing” and rightly so; it is one of the best books I have read in a long time and if you haven’t read it already, I suggest you add this innovative masterpiece to your reading list!


What makes McBride’s novel unique is the language structure, it completely abandons all rules – although some are calling it Joycean, named after James Joyce who pioneered the ‘Stream of Consciousness‘ style, others are giving it the term ‘Pre-consciousness’ – either way, it is like squatting in the brain of the narrator and recieving live play by play thoughts; some sentences break, some only contain two words; it is powerful and very affecting. What’s more is that the novel is written in second person, the ‘you’ narrative.


When we write in second person, we as the writer or the character as the narrator, is addressing another person, or a group of people – imagine a novel written like a very detailed letter – but the receiver(s) aren’t necessarily named. This is probably the least used narrative in fiction, so try it out! When we write, we are usually more comfortable writing in first person (I) or third (he/she/they) – but what happens when you turn one of your stories into a completely different narrative style? Sometimes the whole story could twist, new and exciting elements can present themselves and refresh the whole piece.

So take an idea and play with the narrative, try it in first person, second and third. Try it in the Stream of Consciousness (a run of thoughts) style or try an omnicient narrator (a ‘know all’ narrator who tells the tale from all perspectives and has access to information that some characters may not know). Once you’ve got a few versions of the same piece, see what stands out to you – which version do you prefer and why?



7 comments on “Playing With Narrative

  1. Victoria K Gallagher
    June 14, 2014

    Love, Love the sound of this book: Anything that goes against what is deemed as ‘proper’ writing gets me going in a good way. I just hope the story is as good as the writing! 😉

    • tigereye26
      June 14, 2014

      The story is incredible. I held my breath throughout the entire last few chapters and was completely moved by the end. It’s raw and the content could be unsettling for some but the bravest and most brutal prose always appeals to me the most.

  2. Victoria K Gallagher
    June 14, 2014

    Whoah.. I just read a few chapters on Amazon, my head was hurting at the start, literally, but as it went on I found I was beginning to understand the style more and that made it easier to ‘nearly’ get an understanding of the story.

    Three chapters and yes, it’s a very hard read, but I still felt my heart was moved at certain points. I also saw, and got, the dark humour going on making me smile.

    So far it is building momentum. This is one of those books that you have to read in long bursts just to get your head around the language and feel used to it. Do I buy it? I’m truly on the fence.

    My main concern now is whether there is going to be a good enough story developing with enough to hold my interest. Reading it I see as a challenge – I just don’t want to be disappointed. Arghh.. What to do?!

    If it wasn’t for some of the descriptions I read what the book entails, I know I’d be stuck. However, the girl is growing up in the book and with that comes more complexities. Is the book just a play on narratives or is there a story to it as well?

    Well, it’s got me intrigued enough to write about what I have read, so maybe, I really don’t know 100%, just buy it and read it: One reviewer said that it stays with you a long while after and they are the kind of books I like. I’m so on the fence – I just don’t like wasting money and that’s what’s worrying me. I’ll check again.

  3. Victoria K Gallagher
    June 14, 2014

    Hi, I got your comment just after I went ahead and bought it; I just thought to take a chance if it’s affected me enough to write so much about it. Well, I’m very happy to hear that there too is a story, and a powerful one at that it sounds. To be honest, I’ve wanted a true gripping book for ages yet didn’t come across any. starting to read this one now….

    • tigereye26
      June 16, 2014

      Glad you got yourself a copy, even just giving something a try whether we’re not sure if we’ll enjoy it or not is worth the investment. It helps us to shape our taste and form opinions on what we like and what we don’t like but we also come to truly understand why we do or don’t.

      Also, every book is a story, it is plot that is a different matter. The smallest events are often the most significant because they resonate and relate to people on a wider scale – the everyday things, common emotions. I much prefer the heart of a story to something that’s going to entertain me because it has a few plot twists, but that’s just me 🙂

      I don’t think you’ll be disappointed though.

      Happy Reading!

  4. Victoria K Gallagher
    June 17, 2014

    I just finished reading it. I knew I’d have to do it in one go because it’s that hard hitting it was best to get it read quick – I wouldn’t have been able to cope with reading it spread out like I usually read.

    Doing this made me be in her world: I was as isolated and alone as she was. I know what I felt – what she did.

    My first thought, once the feeling had a gap , was at least she is free now.

    Regarding the narrative: She [McBride] wrote poetically a lot which I thought was amazing as it wasn’t obvious and it was unexpected too. It didn’t go on throughout the entire text, but it was there and crafted with sheer mastery. I’m not surprised why you recommended this book! The rest is a pure challenge, but still understandable – just.

    I know there’s a 50/50 divide out there, but when you ‘get it’ you have got it and makes it worthwhile 100% to read.

    Wow! Is all that’s left to say! Thank You!! It was worth every penny 🙂

  5. Pingback: 2014 Reading Challenge Quarterly Update | The Heart of Writing

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