Masterful Narrative Scenes Part 2

Narrative scenes are ones in which the story is being told, not shown. Last week we looked at a passage from Lisa Gardner’s thriller Right Behind Youwhich gave us an excellent example of a POV character narrating a tale.

This is a common technique in the mystery/suspense genre, and especially in the opening scene, which sometimes is in omniscient POV.

While writers are admonished to “show, don’t tell,” there are times when it’s masterful and the best method to instead narrate the information needed to get across to readers.

When artfully done, narrative scenes can be as riveting as cinematic scenes that play out as if watching a movie. Continue Reading…

Questions to Ask before You Start Writing Your Memoir

Here are some excerpts from my new book, The Memoir Workbook. If you’ve thought about writing a memoir (which is hugely popular these days), it’s helpful to ask some questions before you get started.

As with any book, it’s helpful to put together an outline of what you plan to write about. But before you can get to that point in the writing process, you need to understand how to tell a powerful, moving story and what thwarts that attempt.

And most importantly, you need to ask questions.

Creating a structure for your memoir is not about reinventing the wheel. You can and should base your structure off of memoirs that have already been written, though you may feel the best structure for your memoir is a unique one. Regardless, before you dig into telling your story, do your homework. Read memoirs that sound as if they might be similar to yours.

Think about the tone of your story. Will it be humorous? Snarky? Dead serious? Intense? A mixture of all these? Continue Reading…

Masterful Narrative Scenes in Novels

Show, don’t tell. Yeah, we know that’s the rule. But there are times when scenes can be masterfully told by the POV character. Sometimes a character is telling a story, relating a memory, and if done well, it’s just as gripping as if the scene were played out in cinematic fashion.

I haven’t seen much written on the “narrative” scene, but this is a technique that suspense writer Lisa Gardner excels at. While narrative scenes can be in first or third person, the most effective ones I’ve read are in first person. What makes for great narrative scenes is the character voice.

In fact, the lack of that voice would risk boring readers. To me, openings of many best sellers (which we’ve examined in many of the First Pages of Best Sellers series on this blog), which are mostly narrative, are plain boring. And that’s because they lack a strong POV character voice.

We looked at some excerpts from Ron Hansen’s novel The Assassination of Jesse James and noted how his writing style or author “voice” made the narrative riveting (at least to me).

These are two different things. You may have an overall writing style like Hansen’s that infiltrates every page such that the only times you really get the “character voice” is in the dialogue. The storytelling voice can be consistent throughout a novel and set a specific tone or patina over the story. Hansen’s book, as I noted, reads like a biography, and I believe his choice of this stylistic voice was deliberate, to give this effect. Continue Reading…

Recent Posts

3 Important Tips if You're Planning to Write a Memoir

3 Important Tips if You're Planning to Write a Memoir

Author Toni Morrison said, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet,[...]
Start the New Year with a Comprehensive Scene Outline

Start the New Year with a Comprehensive Scene Outline

I wrote this post a year ago, and since I did this series on scene outlines, I've had dozens of writ[...]
Masterful Setting Description Part 3

Masterful Setting Description Part 3

Masterful setting description teaches us an important lesson: writers need to take the time to paint[...]
Masterful Setting Description Part 2

Masterful Setting Description Part 2

Setting description in most novels is the weakest element. As with character description, many write[...]
A Look at Masterful Setting Description

A Look at Masterful Setting Description

Masterful writing must seep into every corner of a novel. We looked briefly at the description of ch[...]
Yes—you CAN make a comfortable living as a writer. But you need a clear plan!
Enter your email to grab my proven 4-step system for mapping out your career (and you'll also get my useful twice-monthly updates!).

Yes—you CAN make a comfortable living as a writer. But you need a clear plan!

Enter your email to grab my proven 4-step system for mapping out your career (and you'll also get my useful twice-monthly updates!).

Awesome! Check your email for your free guide.