MasterClass Report | Voices, Characters and Breaking Stereotypes in the Development of Female Narrators
Ana-Maria Negrilă (Romania)
Fictional books are full of voices. They belong to the narrators who were given the role to tell not only their own stories, but also the ones of the other characters. In a MasterClass as part of the 7th EU-China International Literary Festival, Ana-Maria Negrilă – a Romanian writer, translator, and literary critic – discussed some of these types of narrators, their relationship with the other characters, and their importance to the story.
“The point of view narrators can be omniscient, limited, multiple or objective. Points of view are important also because they make readers participate in the story, make them get trapped in the story which is actually what every writer wishes to accomplish eventually,” Negrilă said.
“In the first person point of view one of the characters is narrating the stories. These narrators are main characters but also secondary characters people who witness the events… I have used this point of view a lot when I began writing because I consider that this point of view allowed me to give more information about the narrators and that it gave readers a sense of the intimacy.”
“Another perspective that I have also used intensively in my novels is the third person point of view. This perspective can be omniscient, limited, multiple or objective. The narrator knows everything about the events and characters They have a view both from above and from within. The limited third person point of view resembles in a way the first personality because the writer presents the feelings and thoughts of specific characters.”
In the third person multiple points of view, however, the narrator knows the thoughts motivations and actions of more than one character in the story. And finally, objective narrators are those who tell the story from the perspective of a total outsider. In this case, the reader does not know what the characters are thinking and can judge the characters only by their actions.
“I have used the third person limited but especially the multiple points of view when I wanted to have a story told from different perspectives. As a science fiction and fantasy writer I prefer these multiple points of view because they allow me to have the story told not only by human characters but also by non-human minds, such as aliens, robots, artificial intelligence and so on,” she said.
Another perspective that may be used is the second person point of view, but it is not widely used. “It’s quite rare actually as it involves the reader in the narration addressing the reader directly. I have also used this perspective but actually only once in a short story, in a cyberpunk story about a woman who lives in a city at the dusk of human civilization. She tells the story of her relationship with many involved activities as it often happens in cyberpunk stories but she addresses this man directly … and tells him her feelings, her hopes, her worries.”
With regard to gender depictions, women tend to be portrayed more as stereotypes than real personalities in science fiction, Negrilă said. “They can do things that traditionally only men could do. So they are built the same way as male characters are. However, in order to make female characters more credible to this strong woman stereotype I think the writer has to add some more traits.”
Negrilă presented the case of one her characters, Idolia, who was strong in mind and body. “She has been conditioned by her creators to act in a certain way, but somehow she is able to go beyond all this. She begins to experience friendship. She begins to ask questions. She even tries to understand her enemies. She falls in love, makes decisions. Some of them are good, some of them are bad. But finally, she leaves her former masters and embarks on a journey that eventually takes her to a distant galaxy. All these things that happened to her make her develop.”
In conclusion, Negrilă said that whatever type of narrator a writer chooses “it is important that the writer should have an intimate insight into the mind of their characters – female or male or non-human – because their actions have to be well motivated, consistent with the characters themselves and with the world they inhabit. And this is very important especially in fantasy and science fiction where the reader cannot rely on the real world to understand what’s going on in the story.”
The 7th EU-China International Literary Festival brought leading European and Chinese writers together to embrace the core theme of “Explore·Imagine·Inspire – Science Fiction, Fantasy and Worlds Beyond”.