What She Left is a cleverly constructed fractured timeline novel, that re-builds the life of deceased journalist Alice Salmon, using the digital footprint left by herself and those she knew. As part of his blog tour, T R Richmond writes for LifeOfCri.me about using multiple character first person narration.
Writing in the first-person offers benefits and challenges to a writer.
It allows you to really get inside the head of a character, exploring their brain’s innermost workings. The downside is you can only ever include what’s in their head. If your character hasn’t thought it, seen it or done it, it’s cheating to include it.
When I was planning What She Left, I wanted to have my cake and eat it. I wanted to see the world as all my characters did. So I wrote the book from multiple first-person perspectives.
This has always struck me as the most honest form of narration, because in reality we’re all the first-person narrators of our own lives.
Our own take on events, our own view of the world and our narrative seems sacrosanct to us, but it runs alongside everyone else’s – at times diverging from theirs, at times converging with theirs. Some facts are inalienable, but we all see things differently – hence disputes over so-called ‘facts’. Hence why life contains so many grey areas.
Such issues of perspective and reliability are as relevant in journalism as they are in fiction. When it comes to choosing which news to read, listen to or watch, we have to ask ourselves: Whose version of events is the most accurate? We have to ask ourselves: Who can we trust? We have to ask ourselves: are we looking for our existing world view to be reinforced?
The internet has been a game-changer when it comes to the reliability of news. Anyone can share information now and, while this “democratisation” brings benefits such as quickening the dissemination of news and challenging the exclusive cabal of information providers, it also means we’re exposed to heavily subjective material.
Many journalists are as passionate as ever about objectivity and balance, but as “consumers” of news it’s vital we ask who the narrator is of any particular piece of work. What’s their agenda? Because, however objective a piece purports to be, if you follow it back far enough, it’ll be the brainchild of someone with inherently subjective opinions. The solution, perhaps, is to develop broad tastes when it comes to journalism, as we’re always advised to with fiction. That at least gives us a counterbalance, exposing us to multiple sides of any particular argument. Remember, in journalism as in life, there’s no such thing as an entirely reliable narrator. Hence why fiction written in the first-person can feel so authentic.
T. R. Richmond
What She Left by T. R. Richmond is published by Michael Joseph on 23rd April, priced £12.99