Articles about narrative
Kurt Vonnegut, author of such classics as Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions, stands today as one of the 20th century’s most important American writers. I can’t think of anyone better placed to give literary advice, and, thankfully, he agreed with me.
These eight tips were originally written by Vonnegut to apply exclusively to writers of short stories, but I reckon they’re just as useful for writers of longer fiction.Read More »
The founders of Writers Helping Writers have created an innovative platform for writers to boost their creativity and enhance their skill set: One Stop For Writers. The creators call it the "library," and it's complete with an "Information Desk," "Thesaurus," "The Stacks," and more.
Whether this is your first rodeo and you need some entry level writing help, or you're an old hand and just want a fun way to plan your novel, One Stop For Writers has scads of resources, templates, online tools, and lessons to help you write the best novel yet.
We're going to cover just the highlights because it can take you days of roaming around the "library" to see and experience everything.Read More »
Many writing experts advise that you consider the current market as you write. If a reader buys one kind of book and likes it, they will look for more of the same. This notion is why you’ll see clone books pop up whenever there’s a breakout novel that runs up the bestseller list. Those writers follow the market.Read More »
Foreshadowing allows you to plant clues, hint at what’s to come, build the tension, or even place a red herring in your reader’s path.
You can use foreshadowing in a variety of ways. The resulting action can be immediate or delayed. You can use dialogue or narrative to set the scene, and you can foreshadow a symbolic event or an ethical dilemma. You can use direct or indirect foreshadowing, and it can even be true or false.
Foreshadowing can feed the tension of a scene. Who doesn’t know the famous shower scene in the movie Psycho? Right before the character Marion Crane pulls up to the Bates Motel, her windshield wipers are slashing through the rain, foreshadowing what awaits her in the shower scene.Read More »
A flashback is a scene you use in your current narrative to show something that happened in the past. The two key differentiators are: 1) it must be a scene (as opposed to narration about an event), and 2) it’s past news.
Flashbacks are great for building three-dimensional characters because readers gains insight on how a character’s thoughts, feelings, and morals were formed by important events. They’re also useful for dropping hints about what happened to lead your main character to the current point in time. They help your readers understand and care deeply about your characters and what happens to them.Read More »
So you are ready to write your novel. Excellent. Are you prepared? The last thing you want when you sit down to write your first draft is to lose momentum. Have you figured out the key traits of your characters so that you know how they will act (and react) in each scene? Have you thought through the climax of your narrative so that you can lay all the groundwork to get there? Have you researched the setting of your story so you can make it feel authentic?
Use this guide before you start writing to work out your narrative arc, plan out your key plot points, flesh out your characters, and begin to build your world. Then, when you begin your writing journey, you will have a map to follow along the way.Read More »
In this post, Kathy Edens introduces us to six of the most popular novel-writing methods out there: 1) The Snowflake Method, 2) The 30-Day Method, 3) The 5-Step Method, 4) The Write From The Middle Method, 5) The 5-Draft Method, 6) The Novel Factory Methods. The best method is the one that speaks to you. It’s the one that you’ll commit to and use to start writing your novel. But more importantly, it’s the one that will help see you through to the end.
Only you can decide what’s the best method for you because every writer is different with different needs and motivations. Choose what works best for you. Or experiment with different methods to find the one that helps you be your most productive ever.Read More »
Danny Mancini is part of the team at Penguin Random House The Writers’ Academy. They excel at helping aspiring writers to hone their craft and sharpen up their writing technique. Whether you've been writing fiction for a long time or are completely new to the process, there are a number of common writing mistakes that all authors should be wary of.
So if you're struggling from a case of writer's block, or wondering what's blocking you on the path to publication, read on below to ensure that you're not making any of these fatal writing errors...Read More »
Sometimes, narrative and exposition are used synonymously to explain parts of a novel that “narrate” information for the reader. They are, in fact, different devices used to give the reader information. Used appropriately, narrative and exposition affect the pacing of your story.Read More »
Scenes are the rising and falling action, and the soft moments in between, that move your story forward. They have a couple of basic purposes:
- They establish time and place. They give the reader a marker on where and when things are happening.
- They help develop character. Even if the scene is pure action, you learn about the character’s motivations by his or her decisions, choices, and actions.
- They let characters set goals. Without goals to achieve, characters have no reason to act or emote. Readers want to know what’s at stake.
- They allow the action to rise or fall. This movement is what carries your reader forward.
- They let you crank up the conflict. Without conflict, you won’t have tension. And without tension, your story is boring.
It’s the fear of every writer: writing a story your reader CAN put down. No writer wants to think their story is boring, but sometimes it is. Fortunately, there are only a few reasons stories are boring. Once you know what they are, you can make sure that your reader will keep reading.Read More »
Similes can be found in all types of writing, from journalism to fiction to advertising. They’re creative ways to bring more attention and clarity to your meaning than straight narrative.
If you want to give your reader a thoughtful mental image while they’re reading, a simile is a great place to start. When you compare your main character to an animal or even an inanimate object like a giant sequoia, you’re exposing your reader to another way of looking at something that’s fresh and new.Read More »
Aristotle said a metaphor was “the act of giving a thing a name that belongs to something else.” It allows you to pack a powerful punch in a few words. Your reader can take their full understanding of one thing, and apply it to another thing. By writing, “my cubicle is a prison,” your reader understands how you feel about your job. With just that one word that they know you feel trapped, unhappy, desolate.Read More »
The way I draft is an extension of the way I approach novel planning as a whole - which is to start with a simple concept and then add more and more detail until I have a fairly comprehensive outline.
With drafting that means starting with a rough outline and slowly fleshing it out and adding detail, tweaking and weaving until it is finished, polished prose. I try to approach each draft with different priorities in mind so I can focus on tackling particular elements of story-telling at each stage while setting aside other aspects for later so I don’t get bogged down trying to do too much at once.
In this article, I give details about the objective I assign to each draft, how I prepare for that draft (i.e. what I do in advance) and then the technique I use when actually writing it. I’ve also added a very rough guide to projected timescales and a bullet point summary of each stage.Read More »
The Enneagram details 9 internal levels of developmentwhere your main character can find him or herself at any point in time. A person’s personality isn’t static, meaning that it fluctuates depending on whether they are under duress or some good fortune happens. Each of these 9 levels of development represents a major paradigm shift in awareness, meaning your main character changes—for better or worse.
Have a look at the different levels and see if you can place your main character(s) at the beginning of your story and where you want them to be at the end.Read More »
We’re going to spend a little bit of time on plot this month—talking about what NOT to do.
Sometimes it’s hard to see plot problems while you’re writing and you don’t notice them until the end. This will send some writers into a downward spiral of negative self-talk. Others will white-knuckle their way through half-hearted revisions.
Here are a few common plot pitfalls and what you can do to rectify them.Read More »
Plot is what happens to your main character (MC). Things happen and your MC has to deal with or resolve these issues: they receive a mysterious message, they come home to find their spouse in bed with someone else, their house burns down, etc. One thing happens, then another, then another, and each event leads your character further along your narrative arc toward the climax.
Plot is what gives us action. The narrative arc, working in tandem with the character arc, gives us the reaction.Read More »
Last month, we focused our articles on how to begin writing your novel in 2016, and we mentioned story arc in the article Start With Your Idea. In this month’s article, we’re going to delve a little deeper into creating your story arc.
The story arc (or sometimes called the narrative arc) is a more poetic way of saying that each story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end—or Act One, Act Two, and Act Three. This has been the guiding template of stories since the ancient Greeks started writing them, and holds true whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction.
Where authors fall apart in their story arc is that nothing much happens to the main character by the end of the book. He hasn’t been tested in some profound way.Read More »
If writing a novel is one of your 2016 New Year’s resolutions, you’ll need to tune into ProWritingAid for the next several months. We’ll be discussing how to get started and what to focus on to keep you moving forward.Read More »
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