When we talk about scifi or fantasy or any specfic world and its various aspects, there are two ways for a writer to present them to the audience: as an insider or as an outsider. By this I mean, is the MC someone who is already well-ensconced in the fantastical world around them or are they stepping into this for the first time?
This will largely be determined by the plot of the story, but just consider both options for a moment. How different would the Harry Potter novels have been if they’d been narrated from the point of view of an insider, of someone who was already well established in the magical world? Contrariwise, how would the Bartimaeus trilogy have been different if the narrator had been an outsider, someone dropped into a strange world where summoning demons was commonplace?
There are certain advantages and disadvantages to seeing things either way.
-We get to explore the world just as the MC is exploring it, complete with all the fascinating new sights, sounds and smells.
-We’re able to be more objective in our approach, building our own opinions of people, politics, etc
-All the descriptions and explanations can become expositiony
-The story slows to account for every “WTF is THAT?”
-Intimate feeling of being “in the know” on something unfamiliar to most people
-NOT having to have every detail explained to the MC so the action can move at a good pace
-Everything lacks that polish and shine of the brand new; can be taken for granted.
-Awkwardness of explaining something vital that a character already knows about to an audience that doesn’t.
And finally, I give you a few examples from each:
Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass
Holly Black’s Spiderwick Chronicles
Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Tantalize
Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games
Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series
Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron
Sound off, readers! Which do you prefer? Inside or outside?