Friday, May 15, 2009

Gems: The Gold Chain or Prose and Narration

Prose and narration are the keys to holding a story together. In my own writing, this is where I really had to study. Prose is the ordinary everyday written language that we use in fiction to describe what is going on. My biggest challenge has been toning it down. There is a balancing act to writing prose and I often fall off the fence, writing too many adjectives or adverbs and getting carried away with the flowery language.

I do not know about you, but my main goal when writing a work of fiction is to make the words fall away from the page and have the reader seeing the story in their mind’s eye. I want them to live it, to be there in the thick of things and to forget there is an author at all. As an artist, this is something that I think many writers struggle with in the beginning. We want to be recognized as brilliant writers, but truly, the most brilliant writers are those that make us forget they are even there.

Yes, you want to have a voice and you want to set the tone of the story, but I truly think less is more. That does not mean that your narration needs to be boring. There are so many aspects of prose and narration that we can discuss that I am going to explore them separately in their own articles.

Let’s start with tense. No matter what tense you decide to use in your story, it is important that you be consistent throughout. The most common tense for writing prose is past tense. It is a comfortable tense for the reader who is used to it and is an effective tool for making the words on the page disappear in the background and letting the story play out in the reader’s mind. Past tense is used for narration and present tense is used for dialogue.

Some factors for determining what tense to write should be taken into consideration. First would be what you feel comfortable writing. Second would be what point of view you are writing in and third, what works overall for the story you are telling.

Grab some books off your shelves and determine which tense the writer used and notice how consistent they are.

Example of past tense in third person point of view:

Sybil kept her eyes focused on the stage before her and tried her best to ignore the boy sitting next to her in the dim theater. She’d slipped into the auditorium after the play had already started and not wanting to disturb the actors, she’d sat in the first available seat she could find. With a frustrated sigh, Sybil frowned and fought the urge to turn his way, knowing that he continued to stare at her. Next time, she would pay more attention to where she sat.


Example of present tense in first person point of view:

I don’t know why she doesn’t like me, but I don’t like her either. She acts all high and mighty, but I didn’t ask her sit next to me. My best friend’s rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game gets my attention, and I try not laugh. Poor Roger. He got suckered in to doing the play. If I were him, I would have come down with a bad case of laryngitis or something. There’s no way I’d get up on that stage and make a fool of myself that way.


What tense do you use most often in your prose and narration? And with that, what point of view do you tell your stories with? In the next article, we will discuss points of view.

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