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Thread: Balancing prose and narration

  1. #1
    Reflectric
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    Balancing prose and narration

    Hey,

    So I'm writing my first novel(la, maybe) (sci-fi/space opera); and although I am finding it easy to write narrative descriptions of scenes and what's going on, I don't think I'm putting in enough dialogue.

    Is there a way to tell if this is the case? Do you have any advice from your own experience about this? For example, is a page of description/narration at the start of a novel a good idea? If I take out the description, how can I get the information across using prose?

    I can post a sample if you want. Thanks for any help you can give

  2. #2
    The colors! THE COLORS! leahzero's Avatar
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    It all depends on your style and what the story calls for. There's no universal rule.

    Get to 50 posts, then post a sample in the Share Your Work board.
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    practical experience, FTW lolabelle's Avatar
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    In my opinion, if you feel like your own writing is lacking something--it probably is. Maybe it's just me, but when I re-read my drafts if I feel like something just isn't right, and I know I'm not satisfied with it, I don't expect other people to be satisfied either.

    So, if you're concerned about not having enough dialogue, maybe try adding some and see how you feel about it

    Best of luck!

  4. #4
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    Please don't focus on trying to get a balanced amount of dialogue/narration/description, or something similar. Your story will come out as you wish, don't trying to artificially inflate certain aspects because you're worried there's not enough of one or another.

    I do have to press... well... you say 'take out description' and 'get the information across using prose', and I'll just say that the scene should get the story across, not the prose. So character actions, descriptions should be doing the heavy lifting to bring the story along, and the internal narration, or I think 'prose' to you, should only be brought up to make sense of the situation. Show, and then tell.

    Simon, wait until you've got 50 posts and you can put your first chapter in the SYW section.
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  5. #5
    That hairy-handed gent
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    I think the word you're looking for is something other than "prose", but I don't really understand what you're asking. In any case, as has been mentioned, there's no cookbook or equation to follow, and things like this are impossible to comment on intelligently without specific example. That's what the Share Your Work forum is here for, and you need a minimum of 50 posts to qualify for putting something up there.

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  6. #6
    Some of my friends are fictional. codeorange's Avatar
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    I also agree that there are no firm rules. I like reading and writing a novel that's heavy with dialogue. And at the sametime, I don't like reading a novel that starts out with dialogue. (Just my preference) I like to get a sense of where the character is or what they are doing. How far are you into your story? First page . . . second . . .third? Get to know your characters and their personality and before long you won't be able to shut them up.
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  7. #7
    Reflectric
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    I think the word you're looking for is something other than "prose", but I don't really understand what you're asking. In any case, as has been mentioned, there's no cookbook or equation to follow, and things like this are impossible to comment on intelligently without specific example. That's what the Share Your Work forum is here for, and you need a minimum of 50 posts to qualify for putting something up there.

    caw
    Perhaps it is. Basically, looking at the books on my shelf most of them have characters say or think something fairly early on, normally on the first page - so I was wondering if it's possible for it to work if that's not the case. Is it better to describe a scene subjectively as a character sees it (as their thoughts, maybe) or objectively as an omniscient narrator?

    perhaps a short example would help. I'm thinking of the difference between:

    "The planet Parel was stunningly beautiful. The only landmass was made of rugged, mountainous terrain, which gently sloped at the edges down to the great jade-green ocean beyond. The landmass took approximately half of the planetís area, and the tough metallic rock of the mountains prevented the oceans eroding it away. The mountains themselves were home to many fauna and flora, and on a warm springs day the air would be full of birdsong and the pleasant aroma of flowers."

    and

    "Yora loved his planet. The way the mountains on the only continent formed out of the jade-green ocean like a creature rising from the deep. The way that nothing had changed in his lifetime. He didn't like change.

    He walked slowly through the lush green meadow, stopping occasionally to listen to the call of a bird or smell the delicate flowers. He was going to miss this world."

    (the second one was written on-the-fly for this post, so it's not my best writing - but hopefully the point stands)

  8. #8
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simonalexander2005 View Post
    For example, is a page of description/narration at the start of a novel a good idea? If I take out the description, how can I get the information across using prose?
    Perhaps start by looking up the definition of "prose."

    I think what you're asking is how to balance exposition with dialogue. Can't answer without seeing a sample.

  9. #9
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simonalexander2005 View Post
    Perhaps it is. Basically, looking at the books on my shelf most of them have characters say or think something fairly early on, normally on the first page - so I was wondering if it's possible for it to work if that's not the case. Is it better to describe a scene subjectively as a character sees it (as their thoughts, maybe) or objectively as an omniscient narrator?

    perhaps a short example would help. I'm thinking of the difference between:

    "The planet Parel was stunningly beautiful. The only landmass was made of rugged, mountainous terrain, which gently sloped at the edges down to the great jade-green ocean beyond. The landmass took approximately half of the planetís area, and the tough metallic rock of the mountains prevented the oceans eroding it away. The mountains themselves were home to many fauna and flora, and on a warm springs day the air would be full of birdsong and the pleasant aroma of flowers."

    and

    "Yora loved his planet. The way the mountains on the only continent formed out of the jade-green ocean like a creature rising from the deep. The way that nothing had changed in his lifetime. He didn't like change.

    He walked slowly through the lush green meadow, stopping occasionally to listen to the call of a bird or smell the delicate flowers. He was going to miss this world."

    (the second one was written on-the-fly for this post, so it's not my best writing - but hopefully the point stands)
    The second example is definitely better. First one reads like a textbook.

  10. #10
    Freelance Writer Orianna2000's Avatar
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    I wouldn't recommend starting a story like you did in either of your examples. You want to hook the reader immediately. You do that by having something interesting happen. It doesn't have to be a fight scene, a chase scene, or a life-or-death scenario. It just has to be interesting enough that the reader wants to find out more. Describing the landscape is not interesting. It doesn't tell me who the main character is. It doesn't tell me what's happening that makes this story worth reading.

    Start at the moment your MC's life turns upside down. Grab the reader from the first sentence. Work history and description in later, once they're committed to reading.

    Compare these first lines. Which one grabs your attention? Which one makes you want to learn more?

    The hospital was a tall, brick building that housed several hundred patients.

    vs.

    The hospital smelled like death.

    Or:

    Sunlight dappled the meadow, creating sparks of light on the rushing water. Like most creeks, it was edged with mud. Oozing, slimy mud.

    vs.

    I woke with mud creeping into my nostrils.

    The first examples might be descriptive and pretty, but they don't tell you anything. Nothing exciting is happening.

    Read The First Five Pages or Hooked. Both are excellent resources that teach you the most effective ways of opening your novel.

  11. #11
    Reflectric
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    That was the start of a chapter (and the first mention of a new location), rather than the start of the whole book - but I take your point, thanks
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  12. #12
    figuring it all out eyebee14's Avatar
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    I am the complete opposite. I have a lot of dialogue. My novel is really character driven with a heavy plot line. I have read somewhere, readers tend to shutter at a page full of scenery description. You need to make sure you allow the reader to take a break from narrative descriptions, and dialogue is a good way to do that. Maybe you can break up the description somehow in the beginning of your novel.
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  13. #13
    a demon for tea EMaree's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simonalexander2005 View Post
    "The planet Parel was stunningly beautiful. The only landmass was made of rugged, mountainous terrain, which gently sloped at the edges down to the great jade-green ocean beyond. The landmass took approximately half of the planet’s area, and the tough metallic rock of the mountains prevented the oceans eroding it away. The mountains themselves were home to many fauna and flora, and on a warm springs day the air would be full of birdsong and the pleasant aroma of flowers."

    and

    "Yora loved his planet. The way the mountains on the only continent formed out of the jade-green ocean like a creature rising from the deep. The way that nothing had changed in his lifetime. He didn't like change.
    Your first example has a distant, all-seeing narrator. It seems like third-person omniscient point of view.
    Your second example is close third person point of view, sticking to the viewpoint of one character.

    It all depends on the story you're trying to write which narrator works. I prefer your second example because it shows me a character, while your first example doesn't tell me anything about which characters are involved or who the story is about.

    I'd recommend doing some research on narrative voices and points of view, it might help you decide which narrative style works for you.
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  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW Billycourty's Avatar
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    I love space operas and hope one day to write one Anne Mccaffrey style. The way I see it as a reader is, if you are floating around in a silver cyclinder in space, you better have "banter" (tell or dialouge) to pass the time. Unless you have lots and lots of lazer fights. When you go to another planet you can have lots of "show".

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