Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Babysitter's Here!

In between final edits (hopefully!) on Project Fun, I've been playing with ideas for a new project. As I mentioned last week, I'm a little scattered--I've got a few characters, a vague setting, hardly any plot. But almost from day one, I've known exactly who the narrator will be.

In my enthusiasm, I tried to explain the idea to my husband. You'd think I would've learned by now. Somehow my vague setting and complete lack of plot doesn't translate well. But my husband especially disliked my idea for the narrator.

See, even though I'm absolutely certain of my narrator, he's kind of an odd choice. For starters, he's not the main character. He's not the one who the story's really about, his stakes aren't through the roof. But I can't shake this idea--he has to be the one! I can hear the story in his voice.

So on a walk, I started thinking about other stories where the narrator isn't necessarily the main character. And I remembered a hysterical (yet sweet!) song by one of my favorite singers, Dar Williams.

It's narrated by a young girl, but as you listen (the music actually starts around 40 seconds if you want to skip ahead) you'll discover the bigger story really has to do with someone else.

Here's the lyrics if you'd like to read along:

"Tonight was just great, she taught us the sign for peace
Now she's made us some popcorn, we've turned out the lights
And we're watching movies
I don't understand and she tries to explain
How a spaceship is riding through somebody's brain
And there's blood and guts and oh

She's the best one that we've ever had
She sits on her hair and she's tall as my dad
And she tie-dyed my shirt and she pierced her own ear
And it's peace, man, cool, yeah, the babysitter's here.

Her boyfriend is Tom, but we call him the King of Romance.
He wears an American flag on the butt of his ripped up pants
and will they get married with kids of their own?
He says, "Not if she's going to college we won't"
And he kisses her, oh...
(Someday I'll have a boyfriend just like that.)

She's the best one that we've ever had
She sits on her hair and she's tall as my dad
And she got mad at dinner when Tom drank a beer
But peace, man, cool, hey, the babysitter's here.

And we all went to see her go dance at the high school
We made her a big card
And she told us that she'd be the unicorn wearing the pink
leotard, and
There she was leaping up just like she said
With a sparkling horn coming out of her head
And she's oh, oh, oh, oh
(I can't wait to give her the card, I can't wait to give her the card. She's the best one)

(OK, so the play was called "The Unicorn" and she was the
unicorn so that means that the star was my babysitter.)

But it's Saturday night I can't sleep and we're watching the news.
She says, "Do me a favor don't go with a guy who would make you choose."
And I don't understand and she tries to explain
And all that mascara runs down in her pain
'Cause she's leaving me, oh

You're the best one that we've ever had,
You sit on your hair and you're tall as my dad
And I'll make you a picture for college next year
So hush now, Peace man, the babysitter's here.
The best babysitters here."

I love how Dar conveys all the pathos of a young girl, yet the frustration and heartbreak of an older girl, too. She manages to tell both their stories.

So, at least for now, I'm keeping my narrator.

Can you think of any other stories where the narrator isn't necessarily the main character?


  1. The Great Gatsby immediately came to mind. Also Sophie's Choice.

    1. Yes, I had thought of Great Gatsby, too! Classic example. Not as familiar with Sophie's Choice, so I'll need to do some Wikipediaing on that one!

  2. I also thought of Gatsby. I think anything can work when it's done well. I would write the draft with that voice. You can always revise if you decide it's not working.

    1. That's definitely true! As if anything will be perfect the first round through, anyway! ;)


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