As a novelist my preference is for what I call an 'active narrator'. The terminology confuses most as they think I'm talking about sentence construction and the benefits of 'active' or over 'passive' voice.

That's not it.

The issue is whether the narrator has a character. Obviously, the technique is common in first person but can also be used in third.

The narrator has no interest in Strunk & White; they simply tell the story using their own words.

e.g. "Becky Sue weren't no kind of mother but she did the best she could with what the good Lord gave her. At the age of thirteen she pushed Ryan out of her belly, and proceeded to drop another sprog every year for the next five years. All them kids had different fathers - Becky Sue had bills to pay and mouths to feed. Some say the preacher, Reverend Kelly, caused her predicament. The Reverend was Ryan's father, and it was him who told Becky Sue that contraception was a sin."

It is obvious that I (the author) am making no attempt to write using my best words and grammar. I'm using the narrator's words.

You guys must have a name for this style of narration.

  • 3
    I don't know about a name for it, but I would suggest you call it narrating in the PoV's words, rather than 'active narrator'. That should clear up the confusion you mentioned other people are having. Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 16:41
  • When the narrator is not a character but is narrating the PoV of a character, the narrator may or may not use the character's manneirisms. However, I've always heard (and witnessed) that the closer the narrator's voice is to the character's, the better the effect is. I have never heard it given a specific name though. Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 19:12
  • 2
    "Sprog" is a British term and the rest of your character's voice is American Southern. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 9:37

1 Answer 1


The technique you're describing seems very similar to close third person.

Of course, close third person supplies only to third person, but the key variable here is narrative distance. In first person, the distance is always "close" (though I'm sure someone will now cite a brilliant example of distant first person). In third person, you can choose (and vary) the distance.

In The Power of Point of View, Alicia Rasley writes about deep immersion, in which the narration is deeply in the character's voice, with as little filtering as possible between the character's experience and the text.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.