My friend Nicola has a great post today on narrative grammar at her editing site. As I write my NaNoWriMo novel I struggle with this every single paragraph. I’m not an experienced fiction writer so I’m feeling my way through. I have been doing my best to follow some of these advice before reading it. I do pay attention to where my characters are in the space they occupy, and try to make sure that the order of actions makes sense for their viewpoint. I don’t randomly add details, I try to bring them into the flow as a person in that location would notice them, largest and most salient and attention getting things first and then honing in later.
Nicola throws out a challenge to rewrite a paragraph first given to her by Samuel R. Delany. Here is my stab at it:
Harris grabbed the intricate metal handles and pushed open the heavy boardroom door. As he walked in, the sensor circuit transpared the great panes of a huge picture window. He could see the great and silver buildings of the city through it. In the center of the room chairs were set haphazardly around a board table, framed by a gold rug.
For those people doing the NaNoWriMo challenge, I recommend subscribing to the Sterling Editing blog. You’ll learn lessons you need. And don’t forget their second draft special. I’ll be taking that one up myself.
2 thoughts on “Narrative Grammar”
Hey, Dave, you should post that over at Sterling.
Basically, though, you’ve got the order of things right–though perhaps you could work on the last sentence a bit more. Rugs don’t frame things. (Think about it: frames are empty in the middle; rugs aren’t.)
Also, use of the verb ‘grab’, a bluntly energetic action, doesn’t really fit the rest of the paragraph, in which Harris is clearly taking the time to gaze about him. If you want to keep ‘grab’, then perhaps have him shove the doors open, stride in, trip over the rug… Or he could grab and shove, but then stop dead, blown away by the sudden view of the great and silver city…
Feel free to send me a copy of your first draft too and I’ll take an editing pass at it. While I work in software, my degree is actually in English/Creative Writing. My experience in writing workshops revealed I’m actually better at helping other people refine their work than writing my own.
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