Single versus multiple narrators

This week’s Bookends features a new novel from an author in Wales, an article and podcast about narrative voices and an article about the value of creative writing courses.

Book: Crushed by Kate Hamer

I enjoyed Kate Hamer’s debut novel, the disturbing, psychological The Girl in the Red Coat last year. She’s just published her third novel which sounds just as dark and intriguing. Crushed is about an obsessive friendship between three girls. Over the course of one long hot summer, they find their friendship pushed to a breaking point as one of them convinces herself that her thoughts can influence events in the world around them.

Podcast/Article: Narrators Singular, Plural and Vanishing

Narrators have been much in evidence this week. Early in the week, a Tea or Books? podcast episode on the topic helped make a treadmill almost a pleasure.  Simon (Stuck in a Book) and Rachel (Book Snob) discussed their preferences for multi-narrator novels or single narrator novels. Some interesting points about the desire for nineteenth century writers to use devices like diaries and letters designed to give added credibility and authenticity to their fiction. You can listen to episode 71 here In the same week I read an article in The Publisher newsletter about “vanishing narrators” – novels where the narrator is not the main character, such as The Great Gatsby or The Name of the Rose. Just be warned that reading/listening to these will have you scurrying to write down the titles of yet more books to read/buy.

Article: Value of Creative Writing Courses Questioned

You can rely on Will Self to create a stir. This time he’s done it by questioning the value of creative writing graduate programmes. In an interview for the BBC’s Radio 4 prime time news programme Today, Self said today’s students are unlikely to make a living from literary fiction, suggesting their courses might instead give them a career writing video games. “The people coming out of these courses are never going to make a living as novelists, certainly not in literary fiction though that’s a somewhat suspect term. Basically writers are chasing too few readers at the moment,” he said. You’d expect the universities who provide such courses would reject Self’s views but the publishing industry has also weighed in. More details are available via The Bookseller.

And so that’s a wrap for this episode of Bookends. Have you found anything new exciting and to read this week that might entice me?


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

8 thoughts on “Single versus multiple narrators

  • Thanks for linking to Tea or Books? and I’m glad it helped with the treadmill!!

    • Only issue I had is that I didnt have a pen handy to scribble down ideas of books to read 🙂

  • Judy Krueger

    I don’t really see the point of slamming creative writing programs. I bet most of the people going into it know the odds. It would be like devaluing music schools, lessons, etc just because not everyone who participates will become professional musicians. I am for anything that keeps the arts alive.

    • I hope that people who enrole on these courses do have realistic expectations for their future. I’m afraid there are many providers who don’t use a lot of quality judgement when it comes to taking students on …

  • I never thought I’d find myself agreeing with Will Self, but I do often wonder if creative writing courses achieve much. You can spot a new creative writing graduate in a nanosecond, because they’ve all been taught how to write in “literary” prose. It often seems to me the authors improve the further away they get from graduation…

    • I just saw a blog post on this topic from someone who took a Curtis Brown creative course and she said “it’s often said you can’t teach someone how to write, and I think that’s true, but you can definitely teach someone to become a better writer.” So just like any other skill when youve been given the tools and the instructions the rest is down to practice

  • My attitude to Will Self tends to change depending on my mood; I did see him live once, doing a reading or two, just talking and taking questions and he was very entertaining. And I do tend to be a bit skeptical about courses that teach creative writing. Can you actually do that? Or do you just end up turning out a load of people writing in the same way? As someone who loved writers who are individual, I wonder…

    • Do the courses churn out writers using the same formula? Ive certainly heard that accusation though it was complying that the courses are fine if you want to write a thriller or crime novel but not much help if you want to write literary fiction. I suppose the question is how do you measure success – lots of people are doing the course to help improve the chances of getting to a publishing deal. If they don’t get the deal do they then say courses aren’t of value?


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