To view this notification widget you need to have JavaScript enabled. This notification widget was easily created with NotifySnack.
Hire
Writers
Editors
Home Read What's New Join
Faith
Writers
Forum
My Account Login
Shop
Save
Support
Book
Store
Learn
About
Jesus
  

The HOME for Christian writers!
The Home for Christian Writers!

Nosy Narrators

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

Moderators: mikeedwards, glorybee

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6935
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Nosy Narrators

Postby glorybee » Sat May 14, 2016 7:53 am

I’ll start this lesson with a tiny story—once you’ve read it, you’ll be ready for the topic of the week.
***
Jan walked down the busy sidewalk, stopping every now and then to admire a window display. She loved this three-block stretch off the main downtown street—her favorite stores were all in this one spot, and she could wish and dream here for hours.

She almost missed the whatsit in the window of the doodad shop, but it glittered just a bit as she walked past, and she turned back to look more closely. There it was: the whatsit of her dreams.

Oh, my, she thought. She held a hand up to the glass; she could almost feel it.

It would be wrong for Jan to buy the whatsit. They’re time-wasters, and worse than that, they can take people away from their families. Too many people get caught up in their whatsits, and Jan was about to fall into the same trap.

Jan’s hand fell back to her side, and she clutched her purse to her side. Not today.

***
I’m sure you saw the problematic writing there, because I wasn’t at all subtle about it. In case you’re not sure, though, I’ll direct your attention to the third paragraph. There, the narrative switches from a little story about Jan’s window-shopping trip to the narrator’s opinion about the pitfalls of whatsit-ownership.

I’ve written a previous lesson on writing in 3rd person POV, (you have to scroll to the last half of the linked lesson).but other than a mention of the narrator’s omniscience, I didn’t really cover the relationship of the narrator to the story. In most cases (I’ll cover a few exceptions below), the omniscient narrator in 3rd person fiction should keep out of the story all together. This includes, of course, not giving an opinion about the goings-on of the story.

In the example above, it’s obvious what the narrator thinks about whatsits. But the narrator is not a character in this story, and the narrator’s opinion doesn’t matter. And stating it this way—by making statements of opinion—is poor writing for a few reasons:

1. It’s ‘telling,’ not ‘showing.’ Instead of using the characters’ thoughts and actions (and their consequences) to make a point about whatsits, the writer didn’t trust the reader to ‘get it,’ and didn’t trust her own writing to make the point. So she just spelled it out.

2. It pulls the reader out of the scene and into the narrator’s head.

3. It’s a heavy-handed way of making a point, like using a sledgehammer to crack an egg. Good writing is subtler than that.

Now, it’s perfectly fine for a writer to write a piece of fiction in which the reader will take away a lesson or a new realization about whatsits (or anything else). We often have strong opinions that have inspired us to write. But it’s far better to make that point in the course of telling the story, and not by pontificating to the reader.

There are times, of course, when the narrator is part of the story. Sometimes the narrator is a minor character, telling the lives of the main characters as they are being observed. Sometimes the narrator steps out of the story and addresses the reader in a little bit of artistic license—a breaking of the fourth wall. These are acceptable writing devices, but they aren’t really what this lesson is about.

To summarize:

1. If you’re writing fiction with a 3rd person narrator, don’t let that narrator butt into the story. The narrator should be a dispassionate observer and reporter.

2. If you want your story to teach a lesson or to reinforce an opinion that you have, use your characters to accomplish that goal.

Questions or comments? Post them here.
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
http://www.superioreditingservice.com
Twitter: @janackerson1
Instagram: janackerson
Facebook: Jan Worgul Ackerson, Superior Editing Service, Jan Ackerson, writer

User avatar
dmbowman
Pencil 3 (100-149 Posts)
Pencil 3 (100-149 Posts)
 
Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Apr 18, 2014 12:10 am

Re: Nosy Narrators

Postby dmbowman » Sat May 14, 2016 9:56 am

This concept was really foreign to me when I first started writing on a regular basis but I've noticed something that motivates me to attempt to "keep my nose out of it." When I successfully use a story to subtly demonstrate a point, I've found that God works in the hearts of the readers to show them things that weren't even on my mind while writing. Getting yourself out of the way is definitely worth the "Oh wow!" moment when you realize God took your words and made them alive to another person in a way you hadn't even considered.

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6935
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Nosy Narrators

Postby glorybee » Sat May 14, 2016 10:07 am

dmbowman wrote:This concept was really foreign to me when I first started writing on a regular basis but I've noticed something that motivates me to attempt to "keep my nose out of it." When I successfully use a story to subtly demonstrate a point, I've found that God works in the hearts of the readers to show them things that weren't even on my mind while writing. Getting yourself out of the way is definitely worth the "Oh wow!" moment when you realize God took your words and made them alive to another person in a way you hadn't even considered.


Thanks, Diane! That's exactly what I was trying to say, but your personal experience really brings it home.
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
http://www.superioreditingservice.com
Twitter: @janackerson1
Instagram: janackerson
Facebook: Jan Worgul Ackerson, Superior Editing Service, Jan Ackerson, writer

User avatar
Allison
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
 
Posts: 3905
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 2:45 am
Location: St. Peters, MO

Re: Nosy Narrators

Postby Allison » Thu May 19, 2016 11:39 pm

Jan, would you say that, in general, it's more acceptable to have the narrator insert him/herself into the story for children's writing, and fairy tales?

Using your example as a starting point, but making into a children's story, how acceptable is something like this?

****

Now, you and I know that whatsits can cause all sorts of problems. Why, they can take people away from their families, and most of the time they are just used to waste time anyway. Jan's mom and dad had even warned her not to get a whatsit. But would Jan remember?

Jan sighed, as her hand fell back to her side. <i>No, I'd better not.</i> Jan walked down to the next store and bought some fair trade chocolate to celebrate that she had walked away from the temptation.

*****

Okay. So that last sentence there is a bit overkill. :D
Image
Isaiah 40:30-31 (NIV)

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6935
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Nosy Narrators

Postby glorybee » Thu May 19, 2016 11:48 pm

That's a great question, Allison--and one to which I don't know the answer. I almost never remember, when I'm writing these lessons, to take into account the different rules and conventions of children's writing. It's just not in my usual field of vision.

I'll say that what you proposed (and your charming example) seems reasonable to me--children (at least very young children) aren't always going to get inferences, and need to be told outright. On the other hand, I think sometimes we don't give children enough credit--sometimes they CAN make inferences.

So now that I've covered all the bases, I'm going to ask Joanne to pop over here and answer your question more authoritatively. Hold on.
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
http://www.superioreditingservice.com
Twitter: @janackerson1
Instagram: janackerson
Facebook: Jan Worgul Ackerson, Superior Editing Service, Jan Ackerson, writer

User avatar
itsjoanne
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 10655
Joined: Fri Jul 14, 2006 9:52 am
Location: West Michigan

Re: Nosy Narrators

Postby itsjoanne » Fri May 20, 2016 12:28 pm

Allison wrote:Jan, would you say that, in general, it's more acceptable to have the narrator insert him/herself into the story for children's writing, and fairy tales?

Using your example as a starting point, but making into a children's story, how acceptable is something like this?

****

Now, you and I know that whatsits can cause all sorts of problems. Why, they can take people away from their families, and most of the time they are just used to waste time anyway. Jan's mom and dad had even warned her not to get a whatsit. But would Jan remember?

Jan sighed, as her hand fell back to her side. <i>No, I'd better not.</i> Jan walked down to the next store and bought some fair trade chocolate to celebrate that she had walked away from the temptation.

*****

Okay. So that last sentence there is a bit overkill. :D


Hey, Allison.
I would say that, yes, it is a BIT more acceptable to put that "nosy narrator" in to an extent - but, as Jan said, kids are MUCH smarter than you think, and picture books especially (my area of most knowledge) don't sell with blatant lessons in them. You can be a TOUCH more sharing of that type of information/bias, but it is absolutely best for the text to speak for itself - for the "lesson" to be learned organically rather than through blatant sharing of narrator opinion. :)

Hope that was helpful!

User avatar
Allison
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
 
Posts: 3905
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 2:45 am
Location: St. Peters, MO

Re: Nosy Narrators

Postby Allison » Fri May 20, 2016 8:42 pm

Yep. That makes sense. I was just thinking of fairy tales where there is a narrator who makes comments like that. I can't say that I can think of any specific examples off the top of my head, but I know it's done sometimes. :)

And yes, kids can definitely pick up more than we give them credit for a lot of times!
Image
Isaiah 40:30-31 (NIV)

User avatar
Sibermom65
Pencil 5 (200-299 Posts)
Pencil 5 (200-299 Posts)
 
Posts: 253
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2014 6:10 pm

Re: Nosy Narrators

Postby Sibermom65 » Tue May 24, 2016 9:51 pm

It's been over 50 years, but I can still remember as a child absolutely hating it when the narrator inserted themselves in the story. It disrupts the flow of the words and shuts down the imagination.


Return to Jan's Writing Basics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests

cron

© MeasurelessMedia. All rights reservedTerms of Service



Jesus - True for You But not for Me      Website Builder     Build Website     Is Jesus God?    
Does God exist?     Build a writers website     Does truth exist?     Website online in minutes