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How to write a novel | Narration


Using a photograph to inspire you with an idea of where you story is taking place can be helpful. I used a woodland picture last week and this week I’m using another photograph from Moorcroft Wood. Your narrator would describe the woodland as your protagonist walked through. The narrator is your story teller and is usually like a newsreader; no slang or dialect. The narrator as I was reminded this week can be omnipotent, all knowing and all seeing. He not only sees the woodland, but knows what your protagonist is thinking and feeling.

Jack felt quite nervous as he walked through the woodland, it was too quiet; eerily so. There was signs of life, signs that nature was about to burst into life as Spring approached. There was some beauty to the barren landscape, he thought. He looked out across the water and wondered how long before the pool of water left behind by years of coal mining would be dried up and dead too. He wondered about bygone days when the woods would have been alive with all kinds of creatures. Perhaps poachers once set their traps here and hoped for a rabbit or two for supper…

The narrator can tell the story in the past tense or present tense. The protagonist can also be the narrator and I do like to combine the two. I was writing a comedy story about a young guy named Daniel who wins the lottery. This idea allowed me to to write lots of funny lines and the whole story built up to an amusing twist at the end. I wanted to make Daniel working class, but not give him a working class accent or a dialect. I decided to keep the narration as standard English, but because many working class people say ‘me’, instead of ‘my’. I changed that one word throughout the story to good effect.

I woke up as usual and everything seemed as usual. I thought everything would be different, but it was the same as always. I had a shower and got dressed, wearing me ‘best’ clothes. I had breakfast; the cornflakes tasted the same as always. Then it was off to the bank.

Altering the grammar so it sounds like the person you imagine, can also add to the characterisation of the protagonist. I could have described the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. That would be show, don’t tell and showing the reader the places is a good idea in a novel; but this was a short story and so it is acceptable to tell the reader where Daniel is and what he is doing. The story was around 2,000 words, but if I had used show don’t tell throughout, it would have ended up like War and Peace and quite boring. The reader has an imagination and is likely to imagine the house to be very much like their own. In fact, I didn’t say it was a house, it could have been an apartment. Sometimes, less detail inspires the imagination and the reader fills in the blanks.

In my short story Daniel is treated with some prejudice by the teller in the bank, until he hands over the cheque for fifteen million…

I didn’t really have the time. I gave her the cheque; a false smile beamed at me as she glanced at it.

“Wait one moment, please, Mr Dawson,” she beamed.

Introducing the dialogue can also fire the reader’s imagination. I think we have all seen that false smile as someone tries to be gratuitously nice to us.

Writing a novel is like doing a jigsaw puzzle. You find all the pieces from a wide assortment of places, your past, your present, last year’s vacation, a childhood memory; a television programme and even from movies you have seen and all the pieces have to fit together to tell a story that has never been told before. Sometimes you get two pieces of the puzzle that fit together, but don’t fit into the story and you save them for later.

My first novel was about a guy who fancied himself as a modern day pirate and so when I came across any information about pirates; I would make a note of it or squirrel the information away in a dark recess in my mind. It was a comedy and so bits of information that were funny, were like pirate treasure. The things that were lucky or unlucky on a pirate ship, for example, could be woven into my story; especially the bit about naked ladies being lucky!

If you’re writing comedy it is important to have fun with it or you become too serious. You have to play with words and ideas. I read something about the hangman selling the old rope from the gallows in bygone days. It was ‘money for old rope’ and that was inserted into my story as my protagonist tries to use the same idea to sell old rope from his ship. To get ideas like that you do have to read a lot and most writers are prolific readers too.

I hope you have enjoyed this insight into how to write a novel. It’s never been easier with computers; but writing a story that has never been told before, is still a challenge. There are more amazing blogs on the Home Page. Please comment if you liked this post and I might write more on the subject next week!

4 responses

  1. Pingback: The tug of my war… « Writing = Passion

  2. Pingback: How to write a novel | People and Places « Mike10613's Blog

  3. Pingback: How to write a novel | Style « Mike10613's Blog

  4. Pingback: How to write a novel | Planning « Mike10613's Blog

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