Monday, April 4, 2016

Use Your Introspection and Narration Properly

Authors have a fantastic opportunity to really add depth to their stories if they use those narrative and introspection portions of their stories properly. For me, that depth of storytelling really adds a lot to understanding the characters, the plot and the situation. I would also add, that it is often that same depth that I find myself passing on projects. I am just not drawn into the story as much as I had hoped to be.

Here is the situation, however. Writers are often using that internal dialogue of the characters in an
inefficient way. They have the characters doing what the author should be doing in the narration. So, let's start with the basics.

The narrative portion of the story is where the author can lay the groundwork for the characters and their scenes. This is where the author can tell us what the world the characters are living in looks like. This is the world building element. We need to know what the restaurant looks like. We need to know how that small town feels. We need to get a feel for the weather and the climate of that location. This is the external information. Because it is external, however, the author will want to take on the responsibility of telling this information to the reader and leave the rest of the story to the character.

For example:

Stacy walked into Johnson's general store. Unlike those major "big-box" stores, this one seemed to have been drawn right from the pages of a history book. The entire store looked like a jumble of every tool and part that a person could ever need. Shelves were lined with jars that held single nuts, bolts and screws for the time when a person just needed one to fix a shelf...

OK, the writing might not be the best, but you should get the idea. This is all scene building. We aren't working in anything about the character. Yes, it is from Stacy's point-of-view but the focus is entirely on the external. This is different than the internal dialog and introspection we would see when we get a real sense of who she is.

The introspection element focuses instead on the feelings and emotions of the character. This is where the reader can really empathize with what this person is going through at that moment.

For example:

Stacy looked up from the package she dropped on the floor only to be met with blue eyes she had hoped she would never have to see again. These were eyes that sent shivers down her spine and brought back memories of nightmares and terror. Buck Johnson, who she thought was in prison was now in front of her and her gut churned with sick dread. 

Now, while we are getting some back story information as well as physical descriptions of Buck, the focus is, instead on the emotions and the feelings.

What I see, all too often, are characters who simply tell the readers what we are looking at. We don't get any sense of the character. As a result, we cannot connect with the situation they are in.

Yes, this information can be combined, but it is crucial that you insure we are getting that emotional introspection from your characters. They aren't going to blurt out to the other character how they really feel at that moment, We get that! But the reader wants to hear what is going on in the head of the characters. It is that dialogue that gives the story the depth.

Hopefully this makes some sense. It is early and my coffee is still brewing. But, I do want you to take some time to examine your own writing. How are you using those moments in the story to get us into the minds of your characters? Are you simply telling us how they feel? Are you wasting those precious moments so they can act a tour guide? If so, as the author, take that burden off of their shoulders, tell that part for them and let your characters "feel" and "breath."

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