Narrator POV

by Greg

Question: I've been working on a story for about a year, a little bit here, a little there. This is my first attempt at a novel. I'm about 20,000 words in and up until today I wasn't sure where the story was ultimately going. My question is this: can my protagonist, who is also the narrator be a character who technically only exists in the dreams of another person? If the story teller doesn't actually exist in the real world, how can his story be told in first person? Please help!

Response So who's telling the story, the protagonist or the dreamer? Whoever it is will be the one the reader is most likely to identify with and see as the main character.

You have to choose whether you are writing a story about a man who discovers he is only someone else's dream, or about someone having a dream about a man. Whose inner conflict will the reader be privy to or relate to the most?

One clue: whichever of these two must make an important choice at the climax that determines the outcome of the story will be your main character.

If the protagonist is the main character who is telling the story to the reader, then he will be the "I." If the dreamer is narrating the story about the protagonist, he will use 3rd person most of the time, only using "I" on occasion when referring to himself.

Of course, the other possibility is to make both these characters point-of-view characters and change points of view now and then.

One thing is certain: you can't have "I" refer to more than one person at a time. Readers need to know whose head they are in at any given moment.

Regarding your question whether such an arrangement can be done, one similar example that springs to mind is the film The Neverending Story, in which the main character reads a book about the protagonist and most of the film's action is the protagonist's story.

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Feb 06, 2014
by: Greg

Hey thanks so much for the detailed response! Basically here is a brief rundown without giving too much away.

The protagonist is the narrator. It is a first person character driven story. In his mind he is real. He has his own very specific memories, family, job, etc.

He begins having strange dreams that involve the a certain woman, though she is never the same age in the dreams.

As the dreams become more and more frequent and strange, he begins to lose his ability to discern them from reality, and at times even starts to question his own existence, but he chalks it up to job related stress. (He works in emergency services)

As the story progresses, the big twist is revealed that every time he sees the woman, its HER dreaming of HIM. SHE is the dreamer, HE is the dream.

Im not an experienced novelist by any means. A songwriter by nature, but never a novelist. Just having a go at something new.

I just didn't know if it was ok to have a story being told in first person by someone who technically does not exist in the "real world". How doe his story get told if he doesn't really exist? Who is he telling it to? Does the reader just ignore that and take it for what it is?

Feb 07, 2014
by: Glen

The reader will happily assume the viewpoint of the entity you choose as your main or point-of-view character. Any entity with a mind capable of thought and perception will do.

The interesting part is what you will do when reality intrudes. What happens if the dreamer wakes up or dies, or if the protagonist encounters the dreamer?

But that's for you to work out.

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