NARRATIVE – HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH
The inspiration for this article came from a book I just read, followed by another book I recently started. Contrasts.
The book I just finished was probably a good third longer, but seemed shorter than the first twenty pages of the second book.
Yup. The answer is narrative.
The second book bogged down right off with nothing but narrative. Page after page of narrative. Mind numbing narrative, most of it backstory, internal thoughts, character development and little action.
Folks, you don’t do that at the beginning of a book!
Every author has a story to tell (okay…gag…show). The issue is how to do it in so many words. There has to be a love of words, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing this. However, there also has to be a love of word economy and getting to the point. There’s so much that you, the author wants to tell the reader about, yet you also don’t want to bore and bog down the reader in unnecessary details.
Look at it this way.
Have you ever caught yourself telling someone about something and noticing how their eyes drift? Say, you get on a tear about something, then realize you’ve lost the listener? You get a little too into what you’re talking about and forget that other person may not want to hear the details? Maybe they just want you to get to the point? Or, it’s you on the receiving end and the teller’s the one that may not get the hint?
Think about that when you’re the one writing.
Think about that when you want to add all those mind-numbing details into your story.
Don’t slam the reader with them all at once.
SPACE THINGS OUT
Okay, Jill doesn’t like the color green. It all started with Jello when she was in kindergarten. Do you have to go on and on about it for five pages, especially right at the beginning of the story? Does it really affect anything? Even if it does, how about if you throw in a sentence or paragraph here and there, mixed with some kind of action to keep the story moving?
Page after page of a wall of words with no space gets to be a bit much. Short paragraphs mixed with dialogue makes the story move much faster, keeps the reader more engaged.
There’s no reason you can’t keep throwing in all those details you want to add, but do so in shorter spurts, mixed in with the action!
CONTRASTS & WORD ECONOMY
In the fast-moving story, I learned everything I wanted to know about the characters, and more in short snippets, well-placed sentences that didn’t bog down in endless narrative and exposition.
In the slow one, I got slammed with so much right off the bat, I’ve already forgot most of it and can’t remember the names of the majority of the characters by the third chapter. I’ve already forgot most of the details as well. I don’t even care.
I’m a lover of words or I wouldn’t be here. However, I’m a lover of saying it simple, not mind numbing.