Sunday, December 4, 2011

narrative current

Narrative current helps hold a story together. So many stories do a lot of things well and struggle with just one or two major things and these make the manuscript lose its power.

One of those things that is often the culprit is narrative current. Say a writer writes well and has interesting characters andmany wonderful scenes BUT somehow they don’t fit together. There aren’t connections between these scenes. There isn’t a sense of story arc. The writer feels that it isn't quite right but doesn't know how to fix it. The story needs a coherent narrative, a current that will carry it to the right conclusion.

Usually when a writer says something like my story is about love or my story is about loss, they’re talking about theme. These are big, often general or abstract ideas and while the story may very well be about these larger issues they don’t, by themselves, hold the novel together. Theme or the big ideas behind your work are necessary and important but they aren’t what is pulling the story along—at least not by themselves.

Narrative current demands a sense that the whole narrative is taking the reader someplace. The scenes in the story have to be constructed in such a way that the reader feels compelled to find out where this current is carrying them and not just what the scene is about. Connections are essential. The writer chooses the right details because he or she finds this current and so it puts them in the right place.

This might all sound like plot and it certainly is plot but plot is too narrow. It’s not just about what happens in each scene but how these scenes fit together and the interior life of characters and their development etc… Without a narrative current the story strays off or it feels stagnant in places even if it does eventually move to a conclusion.

Or so I think today

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