How To Write A Fiction Book – Mode Of Narration

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The next thing I’d like to talk with you about is mode of narration. Mode of narration constitutes an important decision that you’re going to have to make in your writing right up front. That’s basically how you’re going to tell your story, how it’s going to be constructed.

Let’s look at mode of narration in detail. It’s composed of three components.

  • The first is point of view or POV. This is basically who’s telling the story.
  • The next is voice. That’s basically how they’re telling the story.
  • And then there’s tense. That’s basically when did the story take place, past, present or future.

Let’s dig into more detail by looking at point of view once again. You have three point of views to consider.

  • First-person – typically the narrator is yourself. The word ‘I’ pops up an awful lot. You’re telling the story from your point of view. ‘I ran to catch the train.’
  • Second person is rarely used so we’re not going to spend a lot of time discussing it. It would be ‘you ran to catch the train’.
  • Third person, which is also very common, is ‘he ran to catch the train’. Here you’re talking about another person.

Video Transcript (cont’d)

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Now third person is possibly one of the most common points of view in writing but first person can give you a very intimate feel and can get you very close to the narrator of the story. After all, the the narrator the story is yourself, whereas third person is more for gathering maybe large groups and stuff like that.

Next let’s look at voice and this we’re going to look at in two pieces. First, what kind of voices can we use for first and second person? Well, actually first person, since we’re not considered second person. The first is an internal monologue, which is what I was just having.

Best how to write fiction booksThere a stream of consciousness, you might say or also know. This is the rattlings of the internals of the of the mind. Unless you’re a very advanced writer, I wouldn’t suggest this particular voice. It’s hard to keep the reader captivated with a stream of consciousness.

More common, in fact the most common for first person is character. The narrator can be involved or not involved in the story but there’s basically a character who is narrating the story.

Okay, the final is epistolary, which are letters or diary entries. Dracula and The Bridges of Madison County are two examples of stories that took heavy use of this. Third person has its own particular voices. We have a subjective voice, which means that you’re the narrator, knows of the character’s thoughts.

He is aware of one or two characters thoughts and can convey a character’s thoughts and feelings. An example would be ‘Tom hated winter and was miserable’. The narrator knows what Tom is thinking. Another is third-person objective, where the narrator knows no character’s thoughts.

This would become ‘by his actions, one would guess Tom hated winter and was miserable’. We can only tell things by external appearances, since we know of no characters thoughts, at least we being the narrator. Finally there’s third-person omniscient, where you know everything.

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Example of that would be ‘winter was upon the earth and all creatures were miserable’. How else would we know that, unless we had the gods eye point-of-view? The last component is tense. This is when the story happened.

The tense is very simple. Past tense – ‘I ran to catch the train’, talking about something that happened in the past. Present, which is very uncommon – ‘I run to catch the train’ and future tense, which is very uncommon – ‘I will run the catch the train’.

Okay, this is pretty easy. Past tense is the most common and it’s one that we’re gonna suggest using. That’s the three components. If you put them together now, if I’ve confused you let’s make things much simpler. There are two common choices in popular fiction.

  1. The first is ‘first person character, past tense’. Here the narrator is I and you’re telling the story from your perspective. You’re a character that’s either involved in the story or external to the story and you’re telling it. Past tense – as the story has happened in the past ‘I hadn’t planned to kill myself late that night but I hadn’t ruled it out either’.
  2. Next we’ll look at the second most choice, ‘third-person subjective, past tense’. Here it becomes ‘Tom hadn’t planned to kill himself that night but he hadn’t ruled it out either’.

Here you’re talking about a third person externally and you’re getting into his thoughts. You’re being subjective about it, you’re writing in past tense … I would suggest choosing ‘first person character, past tense’ or ‘third-person subjective, past tense’. Go back and review the slides if you’re not quite sure what that means.

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Finally, rules of narration. One of the reasons that I told you about these rules is that it’s important that you use a consistent point of view, voice and tenses when you write your story. Don’t

change from present to past tense. Don’t head hop too much, as far as point of view and don’t go from omniscient down to a personal.

Don’t jump from ‘I’ to ‘he’. Stick with what you’re doing and then of course there’s always the ever-present rule ‘don’t worry about breaking the rules’. If you know what you’re doing it’s okay to mix narrative modes.

In fact, I know in one case my wife successfully, in the Butterscotch Jones mystery series, used first-person point of view for the main narrator and then jumped to other characters minds using third-person to tell their story of everybody else from that story. It worked very well.

That’s all that I have to say on the rules of narration. I hope that I haven’t confused you too much and that I’ve given you something to think about. What are gonna be your own personal modes of narration or your own personal mode?

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