In my last blog, I focused on “showing,” not “telling” in narration, and I gave you an example of lousy narration versus that which will catch the eye of the beholder.
I’d like to continue with the premise that good narration can be “telling,” not “showing” if handled properly. If you do need to “expound” about details that you simply can’t include in dialogue, then I suggest following the next few steps to good “telling:”
1. “Paint” a picture with your words that includes as many of the senses as you can. (Remember my waterfall scene in the last blog?) Think of your reader as one of the characters so they experience the same thing your characters are experiencing.
2. If you are going to open your book (or each chapter, for that matter) with narration and not dialogue, hook your reader. That all important first paragraph of your novel will either inspire your reader to go on or cause him to yawn and put your book down. Check the opening paragraphs of best-selling authors and analyze how they grab your attention in that first paragraph.
3. Even though you are probably writing your novel in one predominant character’s voice, good narration usually establishes an omniscient voice, one that is authoritative and sets the general mood of the novel. The earlier you accomplish this, the better. (Again, study the beginning chapters of some great novels. What voice does the writer present in the narration?)
4. Do not expound for pages and pages of narration. That’s a sure-way to lose your reader. Condense and summarize if nothing exciting is happening to your character.
5. Dialogue is not always the way to go with backstory. If details are not that important in a character’s past life, you can work it in to the manuscript so that your character is reflecting into the past. Don’t bore your reader with unimportant details!
6. Shorten your narration to a few sentences if you’re describing secondary characters. You can’t always show every single action, dialogue, or mood of all your characters. It isn’t necessary. There are times when you will want to economize your method and just plain “tell” the reader what happened. But as a skillful storyTELLER, you can refine your writing style and keep your reader on the edge of his seat, even if you are “telling,” not “showing.”