The other day, I went searching for some blog posts on narrative. I’d found some very useful ones on plot previusly, and although I like to make things up as I go along, I do like my stories to have some sort of structure to refine. So I read a lot about plot and use it in my revisions.
But when I googled narrative, most of the more popular articles were about cutting it out all together.
This… confuses me, because you have to describe things. Nobody needs 20 pages of sunset descriptions, but we’re not writing a script here either. This is not talking heads, it’s a book. Part of the best thing about fiction is how it can get into people’s heads – it’s one up it has on other narrative forms. The Book Thief comes out in cinema’s soon, and I have no idea what they’re going to do with it, because the more important parts of that book happen in narrative and the thoughts of the characters and the narrator, which is Death.
So I’m left with the same issue as before – I know narrative is important, but how to write good narrative is something I’m still trying to figure out. There’s several ideas that I plan to explore. Firstly, what narrative is good for vs what dialouge and action are good for. That’s this post. Then, in consecutive order
- Detail in narrative
- POV – how it effects narrative
- Distancing and getting close to characters through narration
But why do we need narrative anyway? It’s just describing things, isn’t it? Well, maybe. But narrative breaks up large chunks of dialoug, helps to anchor the reader to the story, and gives the brain something to follow. Narrative also works very well as a form of exposition – how you describe a world and a story ties into how the character sees that world. It shows us details we wouldn’t be able to see otherwise – thoughts and consequences and information that can’t be shown in a visual medium. I’ve mentioned previously that sometimes you need to tell, rather than show, because there’s only so much information that can be gathered from watching someone do something. Narrative gives us a window into the unseen. As such it should not be overused, because overused, it becomes condescending – you’re taking the hand of the reader and telling them how to think and feel about a situation.
But it is, in itself important, and it is purely unique to prose. And while movies and plays can do many many things, one of the things that fiction is best at, is looking into the unseen.