Ghosts of Narrative

How can we approach narrative? Is it just a jumble of tenses and thoughts and limitations, a way of speaking to, at, or with someone? Narrations contain all sorts of ghosts haunting the narrative, poking and prodding into voice, licking and tasting each word, placing them into certain locations, changing our mental maps.

The narrator haunts every page, doesn’t he? Sometimes the narrator exists as a camera, as a lens, and he reports to us in a way that lights up like film and seems like a movie in our mind. This is narrator as director, the ghost sitting in his chair, yelling “CUT!”.  Then there is a narrator as lecturer, who wishes to not only tell you of this story, but to tell you everything about this place, these characters, and what he knows. Sliding into long speeches, this ghost gives you worlds on a spoon, resting slightly, begging to be eaten.

Then there are cliche narrators (mostly first person, mostly sarcastic, mostly self-deprecating) who sit down across from you and start dictating their story. Sometimes they scream and howl, other times they grab you by the shirt collars and get right in your face, and the spittle of this ghost sprays into your eyes.

Then there are narrators who are con artists, who swindle you with stories, who tell you misleading things, then swap them out, and act all surprised when their little lies slip up. But after awhile you wonder if these ghosts even know when they’re lying anymore, what’s real anymore–how can a phantom tell the truth? They live in shadowed worlds, populated by dreams.

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