THE NARRATION – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was little, I had imaginary playmates. I talked to them. They followed me around. I was never bored because I had friends who really understood me.

After I started school, my shadow friends left, never to return. Instead, I got a narrator who has been my lifetime companion. Whatever has gone wrong in my life, I suggest you blame it on the narrator.

It’s all his fault.

“Narrator?” you ask. Before you decide I’m schizophrenic, a lot of writers have one or more narrators. I understand the narrator is my voice. He has just one story to tell. Mine.

My job is to live. His is to tell the tale. His is the eye that sees all but isn’t involved. He witnesses — but causes nothing, changes nothing, makes no suggestions except to correct grammar. I wish he were a better proofreader.

My narrator does not instruct, chastise, or judge. He records events, remembers the background, and fills in the story. I’m in charge except I can’t get him to shut up. He gives me a third person perspective on my life. I’m so used to hearing the running commentary, I don’t know how else I could see the world. I’ve grown fond of him. And yes, it is always a male narrator. No idea why.

There are narrators and then, there are narrators. You can get into serious trouble if you forget the narrator is you, not an “other” entity. Should you find yourself listening to a narrator who is telling you to blow things up or kill someone, you might want to drop by a doctor’s office for a little chat. Just saying.

Of course, if you know it’s God talking to you, who am I to interfere?

Through the years, the narrator has filled the holes in my life story, adding “He said, she said,” describing action and scenery, “novelizing” my reality. I have grown fond of my narrator and wish he could type. It would save me so much work.

A couple of years ago, the narrator left for a while. It was a particularly turbulent period, so maybe the noise in my head was too loud and I couldn’t hear him. Eventually, he came back. There a correlation between when I’m writing and the voice of the narrator. If he’s gone, so is my creativity.

The narrator can be distracting. I have had to learn to not let him derail me. He does not respect the moment. A running commentary in one’s head during sex makes it difficult to focus. Men take this personally and trying to explain always makes it worse. They then think you are not merely disinterested, but also nuts.

A narrator can also take the fun out of parties. You have to make an effort to participate, not just observe. With the narrator describing the surroundings and each individual you meet, while occasionally arguing with other narrators (sometimes I have more than one), it’s tricky to connect with people. When narrators argue, I have to step in, settle the dispute, tell all but one to shut up.

Problem is, there’s more than one way to see stuff and when a lot of points of view clamor for attention, it gets noisy in the brain-space. It can keep you up at night. It can keep your partner awake too

What light through yonder window breaks?

I’ve learned a lot from my narrator. I’ve learned to see life as an endless story with chapters, back stories, weird incidental characters, tragedy, romance, hope, and despair.

My job is to live it, not forget to write it down — and fix the typos.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!

50 thoughts on “THE NARRATION – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. Where can I find a narrator? I’d really like to have one. Someone who can help me make some sense out of everything, who can be objective, detatched, unemotional. Maybe I’ll check Craigslist to see if i can find one there. Or Amazon. Amazon has everything.

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    1. Mine moved in when I was still a teenager and I really didn’t have a lot to say about it. I don’t mind except when they get a little bit raucous. But as a result, I tend to see the world as a third person observer, which is probably weird, but it’s always been that way for me. I have been told that this may actually have something to do with having been an abused child — a form of mental withdrawal.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Great explainer for the voices in my head. One voice always nagged, “Garry, pay your tab and leave. Time to go home. Enough is enough”.

        Yes, I have multiple narrators. And, I can hear them better now.

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    1. The narrator just showed up when I started to really write a lot, which was in my teens. It has left occasionally, usually when I was for some reason NOT writing (too sick, too busy, to externally involved) … but always comes back. So far. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a better memory than me and he still misses all the typos.

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  2. I wish he were a better proofreader…. yep.
    Mine has a very quiet ‘voice’. Doesn’t always make herself heard, but when life is quiet, but ‘interesting ‘ ( in the sense of the old Chinese curse), there is that running commentary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Does yours add “he said” and, “she said” while providing useful commentary about the weather, physical location, and keeping track of the location and the roads and sometimes, even the street signs … and simultaneously noticing the odd other people who aren’t primary characters, yet are often the best part of the story? When I first realized I had a narrator, I figured “everyone is going to think I’m mad,” but it turned out that if you write and especially if you write a LOT of complicated material, you NEED a narrator. I suspect I could use a couple more — and at least one of them to remember the things I want to write about but will probably forget before I get to a keyboard.

      Why can’t these guys type? And what ABOUT those typos?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Marilyn, that’s exactly my ‘story-telling’ too – only my narrator has a comfy, low, soothing women’s voice! And yes, I never speak about this because I’m afraid to be attributed with words like ‘schizo’, crazy, wild, childish…. but SHE is there always watchful, always commenting, always observing….
    Probably one of your best posts among only outstanding ‘reportings’. I shall bless Pat forever for it was via her I found you – although I couldn’t say why exactly as it could have been just ONE comment which made me ‘sit up’ and then – follow you!

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    1. I think ALL writers have some version of a narrator. It’s a separate piece of brain that notices the things you might not see because you are busy being your own main character. I was really surprised to discover how many writers have a narrator or some version of one (or more) narrators. People who write really complicated stories set in a variety of places with many characters probably have a whole gallery of them. How else can you keep track of all that stuff?

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  4. Mine is an inner-critic, he has the decency to shut up when Im in the throes of writing, but helps with the revisions, and there are always revisions. When I get a bit shirty about his suggestions he shrugs and says, ‘I’ll be right over there. If you need help, just call. You do NEED me, you know.”

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    1. Yes, I definitely DO need him. I wish he could type and a really wish he was a better proofreader. He never notices the damned typos!

      And yes, on a finished piece, his is the voice that says “you need to rewrite that section … it’s all twisted up” and I say “It’s fine” and he says “look at that knotted, confused text. No one is going to understand what it means.” He is always right. Damn it.

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    2. Judy, I have a Travis Bickle (“Taxi Driver”) voice who always says, “Are you talking to ME?”. It’s part of you and your voice talking to each other. No, not locker room talk, Judy.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It is the backgrounder for stories. I frequently with he could type or record because, by the time I get to writing it I’ve lost a lot of the little pieces of action and dialogue. When I write fiction (rarely), he is (I think) the mental function who helps a character do his/her own thing. It’s amazing what a fictional character will do once they get going … and so often, it is not at all what you planned.

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      1. Isn’t that the truth….I’m finding that the only time I get a block is when I try to choose a path when the character has something else in mind and when I go with it, it works. lol I was curious whether the ppl came to interview Garry. They were coming in August? I believe…. and you mentioned you thought the charm could catch on things…can you give me examples so I can rectify that? Yours was the prototype so I may have “haha” overlooked something.

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        1. Oh, they’ve been here and also at the hospital. What they will DO with the video we don’t yet know.

          As for the charm, it’s a teensy bit fragile. I have it on my bag and it looks lovely, but the attaching ring (the one that attaches to the bag) is a bit small for a rather hefty bag. Also, I am the queen of catching things on other things. ALL my sweaters have pulls and if anyone can catch a hem with a heel, that’s me. I don’t go out as much as I used to so it’s probably safer now than it would have been when I was working. It does look like something that will easily catch. It hasn’t so far, but, as I said, I don’t go out much.

          I was able to find a place to which I could attach it, but it was difficult. I think the attachment needs to have a bit more heft and be a bit bigger. Many of us carry bags that are not unlike suitcases. It’s all those eyeglasses — they take up a LOT of space. And then, there’s the camera, the phone, the huge wallet (almost a purse in its own right) and those little bags full of camera batteries and of course, medications I dare not leave home without. No single item is big or heavy — except the wallet — but it adds up. I’ve got a Baggallini into which it fits — 15 X 11 X 5, more or less. It weighs like a bowling ball, but at least it doesn’t look like a suitcase for overseas travel.

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          1. I have a large clasp which I could send, it’s a matter of changing it out and opening the jump ring. I can send if you’d like, then it’s a matter of finding someone to open the jump ring and taking the jump ring off that I added to the clasp. It takes 2 seconds tbh, do you have any jewelry ppl close by?

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        1. When I got one of those “down the page poems don’t you dare stop now” pieces going, in the back of my head was the critic, whining, ‘you’ll never get out of this one, damn it’s too long, oh, you don’t have an ending oh there is STOP STOP”… oh dear. I just realized. He sounds just like my husband when Im driving and he’s in the car.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. This is not an imaginary friend. He is literally a neutral narrator who “third-persons” the story in which I live. Not a real person or even the shadow of a person. He has no physical body, no appearance. He has no face. I couldn’t tell you what he looks like, only that he has a man’s voice. He is JUST a voice, a third-person vocalization of my story. There’s nothing imaginary about him. He isn’t critical and doesn’t judge. That’s not his job.

      He is ONLY a narrator. His job is to provide a background to my story, occasionally point out that there IS a story, and that’s it. Nothing more.

      If you listen to audiobooks, you would recognize what I mean. When you are listening to a good narrator on a book, you don’t “hear” the narrator. A good narrator IS the book.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I never had imaginary friends, and I fed my narrator to the giant like The Witch did in the play Into the Woods (not the Disney movie, the Broadway play) because as The Witch said, “Some of us don’t like the way you’ve been telling it.” (the story). ^_^ Yeah, there are giants in my world. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Willow, I used to have an imaginary friend who shared the bar stool next to me. He never, ever shut up — AND, he ran up a BIGLY bar tab.

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  6. I have some female characters in me, with very different personalities and views of life – the Wild Woman that is very daring and courageous and loves adventures and risks, the Mistress Hypochondriac that complains about everything and always feels sick and overwhelmed, the Lady Grumble that always moans, the Icecold Mrs. Accountant, and a very wise voice called Mrs. Almighty Buddha. They often argue with each other, and of course with me too… I need them to be myself and self confident, need them to write and tell my stories, for taking my pictures, and I would miss them bitterly if they would leave me one day. 😉

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    1. I think we all need narrators and often, a lot more than one — especially if you write fiction and have a lot of characters. I’m not a fiction writer. It isn’t for lack of trying, but it’s just not me. Maybe it’s not enough narrators.

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  7. I had three imaginary friends when I was a little girl they were real life lines as my older brothers and sisters were a lot older than me , I was lonely. As I got older like you I had a narrator arrive but be lied a lot because I did not like my life… He stayed until really quite recently.
    This is not me saying the narrator was negative but they only speak poetry or stories to me now. I don’t think my narrator was as positive as yours was .. I am relieved I am not alone 💜

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