Get the “Bland” Out of Your Story
by Jeriel Ng
Ever felt that your novel has been filled with a string of monotonous narrative? I have. Sure, the story is perfectly set and we’re using a multitude of ways to begin our sentences for a varied sentence structure. That’s great and all, but we simply can’t find a way to make it sound interesting. We all have our own ways of increasing the excitement, but how can we make every scene memorable? After much experimentation, you’ll soon find out that it’s actually quite simple to do so.
Most people, including myself, tend to write paragraphs of narrative, followed by a scene of dialogue, and then back to narrative. The process continues, but we find ourselves stuck trying to add some variety to our sentence content. I’ve always found that a good way to divide our narrative paragraphs is through the following aspects:
The first aspect, actions, involves the most common form of narrative. These would include phrases like “John walked down the aisle” or “Cindy tripped on the floor.” While these are crucial in propelling the story forward, we can’t let our stories depend solely on them. Try adding in some environmental and emotional qualities into the mix.
For example, you can describe how the environment feels to the characters. Even though it may sound trite, always remember to include the five sensory details. Many authors tend to forget to add such details when they get too caught up in trying to move the characters into the places they want them to go. That’s why we revise to add in specific details, thus making the story come alive. With a slight caveat, however, I must warn that too many details on the surroundings may wear out their effect eventually. Ever read a novel that goes on for three pages straight describing a character’s appearance or the painstaking details of the surrounding world? Of course, if executed properly, this can have a positive effect, but if you feel it’s just not working out for you yet, something you could and should try is adding in emotion.
Emotional details describe the characters’ emotions on the current situation at hand. If you feel that your prose needs a little more variety in a scene, you can always describe the thoughts and feelings that are running through the characters’ mind at the time. Tread lightly in this field, however, because it’s crucial to show and not tell in this situation.
Emotions can be best incorporated when writing in first person. What this does is set a conversational tone with the readers, which does wonders in capturing them into the story. With this, you can talk freely on the subject while adding a great variety to the content in your paragraphs. If you’re writing in third person, emotions can also have quite a great effect, as it creates an aura of drama and suspense within the scene. You could even have a scene dedicated specifically to a character taking a break to reflect on recent events, only to break away from that train of thought to describe a sudden change in environment or to have that character return to an action-filled scene.
After combining all three elements into your prose, you’ll find it quite simple to carry one thought to the other. Each event will flow smoothly as a result.
A huge thank you to Jeriel for this helpful article! You can find him on Twitter @JerielNg and online at www.jerielng.com.