I know that this idea is not totally 'revolutionary' as this type of narration has been used in Breakfast of champions, for example. But, Unlike Vonnegut, I want the 'Narrator talks to the characters and or reader' trope to be prevalent across the whole novel, where the Narrator interacts/gives opinions on/judges what is happening in the scene etc, and the characters themselves know that the Narrator is Narrating them.

(The narrator is just some sort of sentient... 'voice' that just narrates, but has opinions and judgements etc on things.) However, I cant seem to think of a good way of implementing this type of narration, and I'm struggling to not make it 'cheesy' or convoluted. I want to make it so that the reader does still feel immersed in my world, with the added uncommon experience of that type of narration.

Question: How can one write a narrator which interacts with the characters, but wont come off as UN-needed and wont ruin the immersion of the reader?

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    I certainly have some ideas, but we can better tailor an answer for you if we know more about the story. Can you give us any more details about the plot or the setting? Or some of the characters?
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 21:44

4 Answers 4


Yes. If it's done well (which is going to be harder than it looks), it can work.

A narrator with opinions isn't so uncommon (The Book Thief is a good example) but characters that talk back, well that's quite rare.

I would pair it with an irreverent style, as Vonnegut does, meaning characters (or a world) that don't take things all that seriously. Because this will include the rule that narrators and characters do not interact. If you violate other conventions (even ones that can be done in real life), ignoring the character/narrator wall won't turn off or confuse your reader.

I would also add in a layer (or 3) of absurdity. This can also be quite realistic (both in tone and because it has or could happen). An example is The Trial. To the reader, the absurdity of a character talking back to a narrator would fit in with a world where everyday life is absurd.

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    This is the best answer, specifically because of the acknowledgment that this is likely to have a humorous and absurd effect on the story, which I think can work to excellent effect. Fourth wall breaks tend to be comedic in written works, but that comedy doesn't mean that the entire story needs to be a comedy.
    – Cooper
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 21:17

I wrote a scene recently in which one character speaks to the readers directly. He informs them about why he's going to be taking a certain action in a certain way which influences the storyline. It's not done for laughs at all, and answers some questions the readers would otherwise have. Then he leaves and says, "The next time you see me, I'll pretend not to know you." It shouldn't (I hope!) detract from immersion in the world because the other characters are unaware this has happened.

If you want the narrator to be a NON-character whom the other characters interact with though, as Cyn said that's getting very absurdist. Absurdist work can be serious in tone and emotionally involving, but honestly I need examples, as I'm having trouble picturing exactly what you mean.


There was a Will Farrell movie about exactly this.


so yes it is possible.

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    You provide a good example, but would you expand on it to answer the "how" of the question? Note that the OP provides examples of her own, so she's aware that yes, it is possible. The question is rather how to do it well. Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 15:30
  • The whole movie is about implementing that concept. To know more, watch the movie, or read the synopsis. I think the movie is a great example of how it could be done. And i think it did a great job implementing the premise. However.... it didn't do very well... boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=strangerthanfiction.htm
    – ashleylee
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 15:34
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    It is a good movie. But an answer here needs to be self-contained. "See movie X" is a comment. "Movie X provides examples of techniques A, B, C that you can apply together or independently to your story" is an answer. Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 15:38

Multiple personality disorder

Maybe it's not a real condition, but in anything but the most serious work it may suit you well. And I am assuming this is not 100% serious if we are talking to the narrator.

So just have a background personality tell the story. It can only see from the protagonists eyes but tells the story indifferent to being the narrator and not having control. Tee protagonist can sometimes stop and maybe even in front of everyone argue with the voice in his head.
If you want this to be more "normal" maybe the story could instead be told by a ghost haunting the protagonist. The ghost can see more, and have a looser camera, but still the protagonist can hear it, and can argue with it.

If you want to see this done to an extreme see

VALIS by Philip K. Dick. Where the narrator sees the protagonist as a separate person while they are not.

I honestly can't remember if it's a spoiler. Either way knowing it does not change the book, but tags just in case.

  • 1
    Multiple personality disorder is a real disorder, now referred to as Disassociative Identity Disorder. This post not only doesn't quite seem to answer the question actually asked, but perpetuates harmful stereotypes about a very serious condition. You say it may not be real, which it is, and I would argue that DID should only be used with the utmost seriousness, as it arises when an individual has been so abused as a young child that their personality never develops properly.
    – Cooper
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 21:13
  • @L.S.Cooper would you be happier if I refereed to it as schizophrenia as I am more of describing a voice in someone's head and not gaps in memory that would go with DID? Also could you explain how I am not answering the question by suggesting a metaphysical narrator?
    – Andrey
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 23:01
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    I am troubled by the flippant suggestion of adding in a mental illness, full stop. The way you speak about these mental illnesses suggests to me that you have very little understanding of the gravity of them and the massive stigma faced by those who have these mental illnesses because of media. Additionally, the querent states that "The narrator is just some sort of sentient... 'voice' that just narrates, but has opinions and judgements etc on things", and that more than one character is aware of the narrator. So, no, this solution does not work.
    – Cooper
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 23:29

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