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 Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, 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!
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 ModesWhen 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 AllKeep 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.