Once again, a prose fiction writer lays it on the line. But these are helpful tips for writers in all media:
by Rita Karnopp
There are a lot of really good writers out there who use narrative summary with finesse. I’m of the belief that paragraphs of such summaries are interruptions and distractions. They slow the action – which is the kiss of death.
But, if you must add narratives, the beginning of the scene is truly the best place. Don’t carry on-and-on or your reader will lose interest. Never add narratives at the end of a scene. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for narrative. Just be careful where you place them so the reader’s attention isn’t distracted for long periods of time.
There are occasions when specific information must be provided in order to set action into motion. Opening sentences such as, “They pronounced him dead miles before reaching the hospital,” “The bullet entered his forehead and exited the back of his skull. He dropped like a lead ball,” “The tornado evaporated, leaving the town level.”
There are times we can’t show a character’s thoughts or intentions with action. An accident victim under sedation, a small boy, or even an adult afflicted with Alzheimer. Narration is the only way to let the reader know what they feel or think.
Remember to use setting as a catalyst to launch a scene. How about a village on fire, an anaconda slithering across a glass-still lake, or an erupting volcano. Setting can have a dramatic input on the characters and plot.
Think about a group of people surviving a plane crash in the Ox Bow. What obstacles does the terrain cause? Is there any natural food? How about shelter? Do they have any way of protecting themselves from predators? Remember to add fauna and color. Bring the beauty of the scene alive . . . as well as the dangers.