Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#WeWriteBooks, Post 12: The Five Narrative Modes


Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series. 

Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.


Welcome to week eight of #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays, where we are writing books together. I posted Chapter 10 of THIRST yesterday over on my author website. Click here to find out who was kissing Zaq!



  

Recap

Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's my premise:
A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.


Week three was Storyworld. Week four: maps and floorplans. Week five: protagonists and main characters. Week six: side characters. Week seven: prewriting. Week eight: plot structures. Week nine: Theme. Week ten: creating a plot outline or list of key scenes. Week eleven: point of view.
 

Today's Topic: The Five Narrative Modes

When it comes to writing your book, you have five narrative tools to help you communicate your story to the reader: dialogue, thoughts, action, description, and exposition. This week I'm going to go over them briefly in an attempt to bring them to your attention so you can start to notice where you have strengths and weaknesses in your writing.


1. Dialogue: This is the orally spoken parts of your story: words that appear between quotation marks. (Or however you've chosen to format your telepathy, if you have such a thing in your book. *grin*) The diction, or way your character says something, and the content of his words, or what he says, makes up dialogue. The way we talk is part of our character, and dialogue should reveal a lot about who your characters are. Dialogue can also move the story along and create tension and conflict. 


2. Thought: This is when the character is thinking to himself. In deep point of view, this might sometimes look like the play-by-play of his actions (He did this. He did that). This could also be inner thoughts, which are sometimes italicized. (I'm such an idiot!) Like dialogue, thoughts are part of the point of view character and should reveal a lot about him or her. It's also a great way to show how your character makes decisions as the reader can see his thought process.


NOTE: Dialogue and thought can contradict one another, and this is a great way to characterize. Your character might answer politely, yet think sarcastic thoughts in his head. Or he might be rude, then feel bad about it in his thoughts, even if he doesn't apologize aloud. Good stuff.


3. Action: This is the play-by-play of events shown as they happen. It's not a character telling about what happened to him yesterday or even thinking about it. It's description in motion: the action that the character lives thorough moment by moment in the story that helps readers feel as if they are there, participating in the story. Action can reveal information about your point of view character in the way she moves and the choices she makes. (Is she always in a hurry? Does she take two hours to get ready each day? Does she triple check the door and window locks when she gets home?) Action can vary from a simple hand gesture or a leisurely procession across the country to an intense fight scene or car chase.


4. Description: This is where the author shows how the nouns (people, places, or things) look in their book by incorporating sensory details (sight, smell, taste, sound, and feel). The author strives to transfer his mental image of what he sees to the reader in hopes of orienting the reader and bringing his story to life in the reader's mind. Word choice here can be very important in evoking a certain feeling for whatever is being described. It's important that the reader always know where the point of view character is in any scene (unless you're not telling for the sake of mystery).


5. Exposition: This is the telling part of the story. It's sole purpose is to convey information to the reader. Exposition can come at the beginning, end, or in between as the glue that connects the other narrative modes together. It can help time pass by in a sentence. It can skip over something too horrible to show (like torture or a gruesome murder). Exposition can be dangerous because the author might use it too often to (cheat and) tell the reader things he wants them to know. It can also bog down the story if there is too much or confuse readers if there isn't enough in just the right places.

 

How to Balance Them All

Keep in mind, there should never be an equal balance to these five elements. Most genre fiction should have lots of dialogue and thought and action, less description, and even less exposition. But this ratio won't be the same for every writer or genre. Generally speaking, literary fiction will have more description and exposition than genre fiction. First person will always be thought heavy. And romances might have more thought than other genres as the male and female leads muse over their romantic interests.

Trust your gut here. Your goal is to tell an entertaining story. If this is your first draft, just write it for now. You can worry about fixing the balance in your rewrite stage, but it's good to be aware of your own inclinations and figure out why you do what you do.


Assignment Time

Today's assignment is introspective. Which of these five narrative modes do you use the most? Which do you use the least? Which is your strongest? Your weakest? Share in the comments. And now that you're aware of this, what (if anything) will you change to find a good balance for the book you're writing?










30 comments:

  1. I think I use thought the most and exposition least. Dialogue is probably my weakest, and I should use more of it. Thanks for this post Jill!!! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Abi! Yes, dialogue is important, unless your character is all alone. Ha ha.

      Delete
  2. Right now I'm in the middle of my first draft, so I have a lot of dialogue and thought and very little description. Once I'm in editing mode, I'll go back and add in description.

    Dialogue is my absolute favorite mode. You can punch it up with a lot of humor and it's awesome for expanding a character. Exposition I probably use the least, just because my writings are usually action-oriented.

    Thanks for the post, Mrs. Williamson, and I'm looking forward to next week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's how I do description as well, Linea. Dialogue is my favorite too. Did you know that if you're great at dialogue, you could transition to screenwriting fairly well since there is very little description in screenwriting?

      Delete
    2. Oh, I think screenwriting would be so cool to try!

      Delete
  3. Ooh! This post is intriguing--I've never thought of these five different types laid out. Still, it makes me more aware of the techniques and balance I should use to tell my story properly and not come off as a splintered or boring one (which I think happens with excess description).

    I feel like I use dialogue the least as I'd consider it my weakest (I'm just not.. good at it?) and the one I use the most are action and description as I write visually and writing comes easier to me if I imagine my stories playing out like a movie :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad I got you thinking about this, Andrea. You can strengthen your dialogue in the editing stage. If you can find a few books with dialogue you like (or movies), read (or watch) them and see how they do it. That might help.

      Delete
  4. Dialogue is my weakest, though I use a fair amount of it. (How do you tell a story without characters interacting?) I appreciate what it can do for a story and how it can reveal things about characters, but I'm just not very good at it.

    Description is definitely my strong point. I enjoy making my stories pop with it and I feel like I normally have a pretty good balance with it, by not dragging on, but highlighting certain parts with it.

    Thank you so much, Mrs. Williamson.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome! Like I told Andrea, dialogue is important, but you can work on it in editing. And sometimes reading books or watching movies with dialogue you enjoy can help you see different ways to do it. Practice helps, too. You could always sit down and type out a conversation between a few of your characters.

      Delete
  5. Description and thought might be my two strongest, with possibly action being the weakest. I think I'll finish my first draft first and then think about balance. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dialogue is NOT my strong point. I don't know why--I use plenty of it--I just don't like it. I much prefer thoughts and description!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel the same way about description. I don't like it! It doesn't come easily to me. I'd rather have people talking. And if you've met me, that would make a lot of sense. LOL

      Delete
  7. I use dialogue and description the most - they're my strong points. I have trouble with making thought and exposition sound natural in the writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's normal, Rosie. With practice, you will be able to smooth out those thoughts and the exposition.

      Delete
  8. Oh my goodness I actually have a telepathic character! (And telekinetic...and a Vampire...)

    I definitely enjoy writing dialogue the most. I think the way we speak to one another can tell us a lot, and it's fun to add a bit of humour and fun in the speech. Before this post, I had no idea what exposition was! I don't think I use it very often, either--I'm more of a 'show-er' in my writing, so I need to improve my description, as well.

    Thanks so much for this post, Mrs. Williamson! These kinds of ideas are very helpful since I'm stuck in the endless void in the middle of my WIP... So thank you very much for the post! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay for telepathy. In my WIP, my characters have just discovered that ability. It's fun to write. Ooh, I hope your endless void doesn't last too long!

      Delete
    2. Telepathy is awesome, not to mention super fun. There's just so much to work with! Since I'm rewriting my first couple chapters, I'm just about to get to around the point where my MC starts hearing the voice:)

      I hate to hear you're having the mid-book crisis. I just got out of writer's block, and I'm still pretty slow, but it gets better! GTW really helped me with brainstorming.

      Delete
    3. I know, those kinds of ideas are so fun to write. I also think that writing about mental illnesses can be pretty interesting--I have a schizophrenic character who doesn't realise this until much later

      Thanks! I hope things pick up for you too, and this blog helps so much... :)

      Delete
  9. I'm not sure what my strong point is, but I think my weak point is probably exposition. It's hard for me, I never know when I'm using it to much :D.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'd say thought is my strong point. I tend to lean against using italics to indicate thought and put it more as the voice of my character. I also do all first person so it works better that way. :) I also love to use dialogue. Description is my weak point. I can do it if I put my mind to it, but whenever I just write without thinking, there's hardly any description. :P That's what I'm working on with my current book right now is going through and putting description is. Hoping to paint a picture for my readers. Thanks for this post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Description is easier to add in than some of the others though. I'm kind of in the same boat, but I love how accomplished I end up feeling after I fill in the blanks.

      Delete
  11. I struggle with exposition and description. I can visualise it in my head and get it on the page but it's not interesting. It's anything like you see in published books. I'm good at telling though.
    Thought is probably my strong point. My teachers all say I have great POV especially for non human characters.
    I find it hard to weave in and smooth description and dialogue. My edits seem to be all action.
    Yeah, finished the first draft last week. I've been working on it for over a year! Finally.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also have a telepathic character! Multiple!

      Delete
    2. Gotta love telepathy!

      Delete
  12. I joined the blog!! Great post! I have a tendency not to write people's thoughts much. want to try harder, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sorry, I meant 'I want'. I'm sorry! :(

      Delete
  13. This was extremely interesting! I write a lot of description and thought, because that's just my style. I think I need to work on incorporating more dialogue, though.

    Ellie |On the Other Side of Reality

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've started losing focus in my WIP, so I'm working on some random short stories instead. They're written like classic fairytales which means there is a lot of exposition (and telling) in the beginning and not a lot of dialogue. They get more action-oriented in the middle, though.

    ReplyDelete

Home