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I am writing a collection of short stories. Each short story is written in 1st person present tense from that particular protagonist’s POV, telling us his/her own story through their actions and thoughts.

The collection reveals the story of one of the characters who is the protagonist of the entire collection. (However, she is not present in every story.) No one knows they have impacted her life or are presently impacting her life; they are just telling their stories. The protagonist doesn't know either until the end.

The stories are so linked I think it is a novel. My problem is that as readers we want something overall to hang on to and with each story changing who is telling story I'm not giving readers that 'hold.' Do I need a narrator or a thread throughout my stories? And if so, what character would that be?

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Short answer: No.

In general, there are plenty of novels that deal with separate issues even, that don't have a singular protagonist. The one book that comes to mind is "Your House is on Fire, your Children All Gone", which reads like a bunch of short stories, but overall is marketed as a "novel". You are free to write your stories any way you see fit, though you need to be aware whether each segment is a short story (set-up, conflict, resolution x10), or part of a larger narrative. (e.g. setup, conflict, set-up, middle, middle, central dilemma, climax, resolution, conclusion)

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A common narrator isn’t needed for linked short stories to feel unified.

Events, both in the past or future, can provide the connective tissue to build engagement with the over all arc of the collection. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury is one example of this kind of very challenging story telling.

If you are finding that engagement with your protagonist is being diluted by the other viewpoint character’s stories then maybe you can raise the stakes by having the events described in the non-protagonist stories clearly impinge of your protagonist’s goals or build barriers that frustrate her efforts. That the non-protagonist view point stories cause or foreshadow or complicate the conflicts in the protagonist view point stories.

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No if all of the stories are linked together.

I have actually done a collection of 1st person linked stories, but I had two story arks (you don't have to do this though). One of them was about the story arc of main protagonist through the eyes of the some of the protagonists eyes, and the other was about the achivements of the main character through the eyes of the other protagonists.

Here's a similar example of what I did; Luke Skywalker would be the main protagonist, and his character arc- him being stuck on Tatooine and desperately wanting to get off of the planet, how he went from a naive, innocent, and kind of whiny teenager in A New Hope (as much as Luke is one of my favorite characters...he was kind of whiny at times) to a mature and confident young adult in Return of the Jedi...well that would be the first story arc.

The second story arc would be of how he had to destroy the Death Star, defeat Darth Vader and Palpatine, etc.

By the way, if you haven't seen Star Wars before please tell me so I can update this post into an example from a movie series/book series that you know...Star Wars was just the most familiar to me since I'm a Star Wars nerd so I chose to do that example

Anyways, the first story arc would primarily be through the eyes of R2D2 because R2 has been with him on his adventures and since Tatooine. I think that Princess Leia and Han Solo would be able to tell both the first and second story arc because they have seen both his character development, and his achievements.

As for the narrorator, you could say something like...

'Peter and Mum. Peter and Mum. Peter, Mum and...no. Gone. Papa's gone. Killed by a grenade is what the letter had said. These were the thoughts that were racing through my mind as Peter, Mum, and I lay as still as rocks in our basement, as bombs were being dropped throughout the city. I look at Peter, who I know is trying to act like he has everything under control. I know why though, he's trying to be brave for me. But in truth, I know he's just as scared as I am.

Since the war started, we've all changed, and not just because we're much to thin for our height. Mum's eyes that were once filled with liveliness and joy are now filled with regret and desperation. Peter, on the other hand has a cold, determined, look in his eyes- the same beautiful brown eyes that used to be filled friendly and sweet are now clouded with an emotionless, robotic look. I don't know what Peter has seen during this war, but I hope that some day I'll be able to see happiness in his chocolate eyes again.'

So that was just two random paragraphs that I wrote up about living in Berlin in World War 2. Peter would be the young teenager who wants the war to end but is not sure about fighting for his country anymore, because it would be under Hitler's rule. He now has to take on the role of a guardian for his mother and his sister. His sister would be the person telling the first story arc, and maybe another general would be the person telling his achievement story (once he joined the millitary for a country).

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Others have said no. Consider yes

You don't need to have a common narrator to tie stories together and provide continuity. But, maybe your story can work with a narrator, or a sequence of related narrator's who maintain continuity, it may give you a way to tie story parts together.

The narrator can be an omniscient narrator, or a narrator in a frame that surrounds each story, or even a history book.

You don't need a narrator, but perhaps you have an idea for a narrator that unifies and adds to the story. The narrator could become the main character in the sequel.

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