Structure, viewpoint, tense

Find MeFind Me by J.S. Monroe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book proved incredibly useful for my work on structure and modes of narration. It came to me serendipitously as a freebie from the London Book Fair just as I was considering for The Scottish Exiles the question: ‘What stories do I want to tell?’ I had identified four interweaving plot lines which, like in Find Me, involved different characters, and different points in time.

In part one of Find Me, the basic structure is that Jar tells the present (‘real time’) and Rosa tells the past, in alternate chapters. In part two Rosa tells the real time present in italics, and Martin is introduced as a viewpoint character. This is an unwelcome jolt, especially as he is not a sympathetic character. In my novel I will avoid this by introducing each character early and sticking with them throughout, albeit to varying degrees.

In Find Me, Munroe’s uses of past and present tense are quite complex. For example Rosa, telling what happened in the past (5 years ago), is telling it in the present tense (as a diary) but referring both to the immediate past (earlier in the evening) and to the ‘present’. There is a difference between ‘linguistic past’ and ‘story past’. I must note that this complexity is all good: it doesn’t come over as complicated as my analysis suggests; it is more or less invisible, yet also subtly rich.

My current strategy, after reading Find Me, is to attempt four interweaving stories of female protagonist present, female protagonist past, male protagonist present and antagonist present, all culminating in the climax: i.e. ‘what happened’.

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