Active Story Narration
Defined: a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious. The art, technique, or process of narrating, or of telling a story.
Verbs can be a valuable tool in telling a story.
The right verb can evoke emotion, create strong imagery, and set the scene in the mind of your reader. Active verbs can be powerful and put your story in motion. In grade school when my sons worked on their homework using “spicey” words. I love that!
The “B” verbs have got to go: be, being, been, was, were, is. Hands up: who else is a “was” fan. I use it all the time. During my second pass of edits I find and replace as many of them as I possibly can. You probably have some common or overused verbs in your work. They only dull your sentences.
Here are a few examples:
Is fighting TO: attacked.
Was mad TO: flipped out.
Was walking TO: shuffled.
Was running TO: darted.
Don’t be afraid to let your verbs do the heavy lifting in your story narration.
My weakest part of writing is descriptions. I’ll rather write dialogue and get to the action. But meager images shortchange my readers by not putting them into the story. Several years ago, author Cecil Murphy gave me this advice. He told me to write down the descriptions I found in the books I read. By doing so, I will get a feel for how to do them.
This technique has improved my ability to describe, though it’s still a challenge for me. As an added bonus, I now have notebooks filled with these passages. I read a page before I write to get me into author mode. If you are having trouble with descriptions, give this method a try.
The Unreliable Narrator
by Adam Huddleston
In literature, films, etc, an unreliable narrator is one which is not completely credible. The story that they are telling you is either false or exaggerated. What’s often interesting is that this may or may not be apparent to the narrator. They could consciously be telling tall tales, or be affected by mental illness or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Examples of an unreliable narrator include: Pi Patel in both the novel and film versions of The Life of Pi and the main characters in Forrest Gump, Big Fish, and The Usual Suspects, Fight Club. One of my favorite parts of reading a story or watching a movie with an unreliable narrator is seeing if the tale contains a twist ending. These endings often show us what the true situation with the narrator was and are quite enjoyable.
Who’s Telling the Story?
Rory C Keel
As we look at “Narration” of a story this month, think of Narration as the one telling the story.
Who is the Narrator?
Is the person telling the story the Hero? Is the one telling the story a friend of the Hero or companion? Maybe the narrator is merely an unnamed person who can see, hear and knows everything from a god-like perspective.
Who the narrator is will determine the viewpoint of the story.
COMMON THEMES FOR STORY NARRATION
My work in progress involves a narrow focus for research, but I’m finding so much great historical information I want the readers to know it all too. For my nonfiction book though, I’m forcing myself to stop chasing every topic that I might stumble across and instead, keep to the theme.
If you have trouble staying on task within your story narration like I sometimes do, you might consider writing under a common theme. Themes can be used for fiction as well. Write the theme in big letters and post it on your bulletin board so that you can be reminded. Your character’s motivation, conflicts, and the way they react to that obstacle can reflect the theme.
Some of the more common ones are listed below, and you might recognize them in your favorite books or movies.
The main character never gives up no matter what obstacles are thrown in his path to achieving his goal. As the writer, you can make his life miserable, throw everything at him you can, and he will persevere.
The main character is a leader who encourages others to work together, and the band of characters cooperate to solve the problem.
The main character discovers his/her own inner strength to overcome fear and finds the courage to take the risk.
The main character accepts their fate, accepts the reality of their world, or accepts others’ differences.
The Hero’s Journey: A Narrative Pattern
“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” WILLA CATHER
It’s impossible to cover the topic of narration during this month without touching upon THE HERO’S JOURNEY.
First identified by American scholar Joseph Campbell, it appears in storytelling across generations. Once you understand the basic narrative pattern you will recognize it immediately in myth and legends, more often in Hollywood blockbuster movies. Many filmmakers owe their success to this enduring story pattern.
The main character, the hero, accomplishes amazing feats on behalf of the rest of us. The story focuses on his journey or adventure. The hero is a universal character, crossing time and cultures.
The stages are as follows:
- The Ordinary World
2. The Call of Adventure
3. Refusal of the Call
4. Meeting the Mentor
5. Crossing the First Threshold
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
7. Approach to the Inmost Cave
8. The Ordeal
9. Reward (Seizing the Sword)
10. The Road Back
12. Return with the Elixir
One of the most obvious movies that uses this pattern of narration is STAR WARS. Luke Skywalker receives the call to adventure but refuses at first. Watch this movie again and take notes as you follow the outline above. I encourage you to find out more about the Hero’s Journey and how it can help you develop your characters and the plot of your book.