Have you read something that feels “off?”
Or been bored with the sluggish, plodding plot?
Do you wonder why the novel isn’t moving along?
It could be the lack of balance between narration, dialogue, and action.
As a writer you want to keep your story moving and engaging.
“We want to balance our scenes using three elements of fiction: dialogue, action and narrative. This is one reason you want to put your character in a scene with other characters as often as possible: Scenes that weave together these three elements engage the reader at an emotional level much more effectively than scenes that are only dialogue, only narrative or only action.” —Gloria Kempton
One at a time
Sometimes you want to focus on one aspect. Use dialogue, for example, to show a character’s personality and motives.
“If you want to highlight a particular character trait in your viewpoint character . . . you don’t want the scene cluttered, the reader distracted or the pace slowed by action or narration.” —Gloria Kempton
If your scene involves conflict, dialogue alone can work to show emotions.
Or, you might want to use narration to indicate what the character is thinking and to avoid dialogue that could sound contrived.
Action is best when you want to propel an intense scene forward and when characters wouldn’t be talking during a powerful situation.
What to use and when
Dialogue: Speed things up.
Narration or dialogue or a combination: To provide background information.
Action or narration: When too much dialogue is clumped together.
Ready to experiment?
Choose a scene from your work in progress or write a new scene.
First round: Write scene in dialogue only.
Second round: Write same scene using narration only.
Third round: Write same scene using all action.
Last round: Weave all three styles for a three-dimensional effect.
—Excerpts from “Weave Action, Narrative and Dialogue,” by Gloria Kempton, Nov/Dec 2010 Writer’s Digest
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