A Story for Samhain

The Crying Valley

Lumb Mill Colden Clough adapted from a photograph by Michael Ely
Lumb Mill Colden Clough adapted from a photograph by Michael Ely

Why did they call it The Crying Valley? The walker skirted a stagnant dam, puzzled.

A derelict mill chimney pinned the bottom of the gorge in shadow. The Pennines hid the sun and the first voice came.

‘I wants my Ma.’

Far from her East End workhouse, a child sobbed.

with thanks to Jill at Lumb Bank

Who’s telling this story anyway?

Which voice is best?

First person

As a children’s writer, I find this oh so tempting. Direct and immediate, it’s easy-peasy for me to engage with the reader. Over a longer time my lone voice can grate. It’s hard not to be strident or shrill. I make quite sure the reader can only ever see what I see in exactly the way I see it. Having an older version of myself reflect on my past in a bookend fashion is a useful way round this – often used successfully in ghost stories.


I am the Great Narrator in the Sky and I can see everywhere. I can look inside all the character’s skulls and tell you what they’re thinking and make it really confusing. I can be just the smallest bit condescending, can’t I, children?

Third person

This writer stands just behind the shoulder of her central character, watching every move the protagonist makes. She reports faithfully on actions and conversations, and is close enough to hear thoughts. It is difficult for her to stand back.

The Great Double Act

The Eric & Ernie of story-telling – or French & Saunders.

She was right there, telling you what happened as it happened.

But there is also the narrator able to summon the whole world, to comment and sum up like the best of teachers.

It is a question of finding the voice that suits the tale.

How do you do that?