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How to write a novel: narration and dialogue

Junction 10 M6 Motorway

If you are following my story, you will know it’s about the love-hate relationship between Nick and Lily. Nick is typically English and reserved; Lily is typically American and extrovert. Nick’s parents were killed in an accident, he felt alone and set off in a camper van to tour England. He didn’t get very  far before he met Lily.

I have decided to write the story in the past tense. There is narration and I have decided the narrator should be omnipotent – the narrator knows all. I haven’t quite decided exactly how the narrator will tell the story though. The narrator can be quite dispassionate and have perfect English, but the narrator can be anything I want him or her to be. I read some tips for people writing fiction yesterday, I agreed with most of them except one. It said when you do dialogue use the word ‘said’. So I can say, “The weather looks nice today” said Nick. Rather than using, “The weather looks nice today” said Nick, looking out of the window. I prefer to not only tell the reader what the characters say, but try to describe how they say it and what they might be doing as they say it. This can be difficult, I don’t like using obscure words, the last thing I want is the reader reaching for the dictionary. I prefer not to use words like ‘exclaimed’ to describe how the dialogue said.

I read another possible tip for writers and that was to imagine your characters being played by famous actors in a film. That might work! Who would I have play Nick in my story? A younger version of Pierce Brosnan perhaps? Jennifer Aniston would make a good Lily, she is American. Keira Knightley seems English enough to play the flirtatious Victoria who flirts with Nick. The other male character is Mr Knight and I think Colin Firth would be ideal for that older admirer for Lily.

Mr Knight is the Lord of the Manor at the big house where Nick and Lily have arrived to visit Victoria, Lily’s friend from university.

I have decided that Nick will get a job working for Mr Knight as an assistant gardener at the big house. The head gardener is Matt who lives in the lodge with his wife Margaret and Victoria, his grand-daughter.

I have set the scene for a lot of dialogue as Victoria flirts with Nick and Mr Knight tries to seduce Lily. Characters need something in common and there needs to be conflict between characters. Matt and Nick will get on, they are both gardeners and will work together. Nick and Mr Knight will antagonise one another and only accept one another reluctantly. Mr Knight doesn’t want Nick to leave because that would mean Lily would go too; but sees him as a rival for her affections. There would be tension between Lily and Victoria too, despite their friendship they would be rivals for Nick’s affections.

“I am so glad you got the job as assistant gardener” Vicky smiled seductively at Nick, “We can all get to know one other properly now.”

“No need to get too friendly, Vicky” Lily said teasingly, “I remember you from uni, you had all the guys besotted”

“I’ll be glad of some help in the garden” Matt interrupted, “You can start tomorrow f you want Nick”

“That would suit me if it’s OK with Mr Knight” Nick replied, looking out at the garden, as if surveying it.

I think I need to improve the dialogue, but when you’re writing a novel, you immerse yourself in the plot and then it becomes easier to imagine what the characters might say. Before you can imagine what they might say, you have to imagine the characters and so I suppose imagining them as favourite film actors might help.

What do you think? Can you write a few lines of dialogue? Do you have an idea for an ante-climax for my story? Please comment and contribute towards it!

There are more blogs to read on the home page and over on a zillion ideas.



6 responses

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