Proposition: Stories are information packets aimed to "entertain" people, and just like every other form of communication, they have:

  • A basic and lasting knowledge for interpreting the information (you violate this when you compare your characters to celebrities who will likely "expire" after a few decades.(sometimes, years))
  • A medium (dead trees)
  • Rules on which they operate, and what gives them their toolset (you can't use the camera in writing and you can't spend decades in real-time with a book-to-movie adaptation (I'm looking at you, Stephen King))
  • The receiver (The reader)
  • The sender (The author and the narrator)

I will bring this up later, but let's focus on the sender/narrator for a bit of a time.

When the narrator is the author we call that a voice in our head. However, the narrator/voice can easily determine the atmosphere of a story with word usage, pacing and information restrainment/providing.

Now, what happens if the writer purposefully manipulates the narrator to either adapt to a certain character's way of thinking when following him/her, or have it as a completely different personality.

Now there is a not completely certain, but very likely problem of people getting tired of the narrator. This boredom usually shows up along with repetition, which might happens when my narrator isn't following a certain person, but is itself.

No matter how good that cookie is, if you shove it down in someone's throat 4 billion times, he'll get sick of it. This is what I want to avoid. How?

  • You trying to avoid readers tiring of the narrator during a single reading of a story, right? Not trying to create a narrator which is somehow immune from becoming boring after the reader's third (fifth, ...fifteenth) reading of the same book. Nov 20, 2017 at 21:26
  • @HenryTaylor Just for the first reading. Nov 21, 2017 at 6:09
  • I guessed that that is what you were looking for and wrote my answer below with that in mind. Nov 21, 2017 at 7:38

2 Answers 2


It is not the personality, it is the style

Following on the OP's generalisation, a narrator can be divided in at least two parts:

  • the persona
  • the narrating style

The persona is the entity itself, which is part of the information that is being passed. In a novel it would be one of the characters. This has nothing to do with the way the story is told. In fact, given an underlying truth of the facts to be transmitted, there is one and only one way in which the narrator persona participated to the facts.

The narrating style is the voice telling the information. For any piece of information being told, the voice must know it already. There is thus a temporal disconnection between the persona, who participated in the events, and the voice, which is relaying them.

The persona can hardly be a source of reader's nuisance. As long as the information yields content that the receiver finds interesting, there is no way in which the personality of the persona could affect this outcome. In fact, the personality of the persona is an integral part of the information, and the information itself could not exist as such without that specific persona.

The narrating style is the key. Given the rules, the information can be conveyed in a very large number of ways. For an everyday example, simply pick several newspapers, maybe from different countries, and compare how articles on the same event have been written. In the case the OP described, the narration includes a first person POV, which entails bias, possible lack of omniscience, and a fourth wall breaking potential. Famous examples in literature come to mind: Ulysses by Joyce, which most everyday readers would find tiresome to read, A Princess of Mars by Burroughs, which is likely less tiresome, The burrow by Kafka, which is (short, and) gripping with emotions. One could imagine Joyce rewriting A Princess of Mars, using the same style as in Ulysses, and overloading the reader with information about the inner state of mind of the narrator, and resulting again in a literary brick of unsurpassed density, despite the amount of exciting events being described.

Henry Taylor's answer provides very good narrative devices on how to keep on track. In my opinion, in blockbuster literature there seems to be a trend towards a more journalistic style, action-based*, with dry narration, short and witty remarks, and, overall, a purpose to each piece of information being passed. Even jokes, inner states of mind, flashbacks, all serve the purpose to make the reader immerse in the information.

Some random references concerning the style of narration from writers.SE (there are a lot more available, my apologies if I missed most of them): How to avoid repetitive sentence structure How much repetition is too much? Tricks to avoid repetition in writing How to write repeated actions?

(*): As an example, I was recently re-reading Ivanhoe and suddenly realized how lengthy bucolic landscape descriptions (provided solely as a painted background canvas) have considerably shrunk in equivalent modern sword and cape literature.

  • 1
    +1 although I disagree with the 'it's not the personality' part. Some narrators can have a very well-defined personality that can become irritating. Nobel-winner Saramago wrote one such book: Baltasar and Blimunda. A genius tale, but the narrator is so cynical, it ruined the entire book for me. Dec 22, 2017 at 14:17

The tools available for keeping a narrator interesting are exactly the same tools used for keeping characters and plots from growing stale.

Suspense : Imply that the narrator is a survivor of the story that she is telling but don't clarify if they are the protagonist, antagonist or even a minor side character until the very end. Use the narrator's personality and the traits displayed by the characters to keep the reader guessing about who the narrator is (and by association, how the story is going to end).

Flamboyance : Have your narrator channel the spirit of Ruby Rhod, Chris Tucker's character in Fifth Element.

Keep it New : Aside from telling the story, have the narrator also provide supporting information through short expositions between scenes. Pepper these disclosures with value in the form of ancient proverbs, poetry, riddles, or even jokes. Make your narrator into an entertainer.

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