PIER 33: The Narration
The first chapter of PIER 33 may very well leave readers like you with a sense of confusion – maybe even frustration. Hopefully, not from a substance perspective, but rather in terms of flow and general writing style.
You then gather the courage to dive into chapter two. You soon realize that everything seems somewhat more . . . let me put it this way: normal. There is not only the addition of familiar contractions, but also overall language that feels more relatable.
This familiarity disappears in the next chapter (i.e. chapter three) as the narration reverts to that drawn-out, dull language and flow. "It will be a terrible day," you may read. Why so robotic, right? Why not write "It'll be a terrible day"? An easy fix that would undoubtedly leave you feeling closer to the narrator (the character Michael, in this instance).
While this constant change in narration is likely difficult to digest at first, know that it's (or shall I say "it is"?) indeed intentional. There are two reasons for that:
Approaching dual-narration was (and is) difficult. Some books may very clearly indicate who is speaking at the beginning of a chapter by disclosing the individual's name in the chapter title or rather splitting the book entirely in half, one half covering one individual's perspective and the other covering the other's POV.
My solution was to have two characters that speak very differently, both in terms of dialogue and narration. Michael's chapters are much more spelled-out and can sometimes come across as uncomfortable. In other words, his narration could be weaved into a legal document and someone reviewing it would scan past it during an initial review.
Robb's chapters include less punchy sentences; it flows a little better, allowing the reader to clearly distinguish that this is a different narrator than other chapters.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: PIER 33's main characters represent the worst and best in all of us. Michael is that voice in your head that asks, "Why do I need to go to work today?" Robb, on the other hand, is the part of us that can get carried away in the day-to-day of life, often letting other, more important things, slip through the cracks.
I wanted to get this across in narration. I wanted people to read Michael's chapters and think, "Why the hell is he thinking this way?" At the end of the day, it's so the average person finds him to be strange. He is, how I describe it in the novel's description, 'the black sheep of society.' He doesn't want to be like everyone else, which is why I envisioned him thinking unlike the average person.
Meanwhile, Robb's chapters will tend to sit better with the reader. My hope is that these ones won't require rereading sentences or paragraphs. In other words: what you see is what you get. It's your average joe speaking – your friend, family member or coworker.
TL;DR: The polarization of the brothers' narration (and dialogue) is intentional. It's incorporated to help guide the reader from one perspective to another while also reflecting the incredible differences between the two characters.
Easter egg: The brothers' experiences change who they are. In a sense, both seem to absorb one or two qualities from the other. This change is indicated very briefly in the last few paragraphs of each perspective (at the very end of the novel). You'll notice Robb will leave you with an 'unfamiliar' sentence while Michael shifts to thinking that comes across as more relatable. This is reflected in the removal and inclusion of contractions, respectively.