Developing Narrative Style

Knowing how to tell a great story is only part of what defines good writing style. The craft of writing novels includes developing a narratve voice that keeps readers captivated to the end of the story.

Developing Writing Style

The beginner might be unsure of their inner voice. But the digesting of numerous novels will show that many different styles exist, from the spitfire-like sentences and fast-paced narrative of Koontz, to the dense writing style of Shrivner. How does the beginner formulate an individual writing style?
 
 

The temptation might be to emulate an admired writer. This phase is necessary for the developing novelist, but with practice the writer will discover their own style. This entails the heightened awareness of the sort of words and phrases the writer prefers to use when writing a story and analysing them.

Creative Story Writing

Unless the writer is aware of their individual style, honing and crafting cannot occur. Perhaps the best way to get an idea of this is to read aloud an excerpt from the novel. This is often a good way of highlighting any areas for improvement. When doing so, ask oneself the following:

  • Are there any overlong sentences that do not provide a breather? If so, could it be cut in two?
  • Are any sentences overcomplicated by too many clauses and sub-clauses that obscure its meaning?
  • Do any passages meaner unnecessarily making the reader wait too long for the point?
  • Are any meanings obscure or equivocal?
  • Do any colloquialisms or slang terms lurk within (with the exception of dialogue)?
  • Does the narrative flow naturally from one sentence to the next?
Creative Writing Workshop

When it comes to writing style some simple adjustments can be made for improvement. The following further pointers might help.

  • Look out for clichés. Substitute for a more original way of expressing an idea.
  • Excessive use of adjectives, adverbs and lengthy descriptive passages is like extra baggage to the novel. Check and cut as much as possible.
  • Watch out for emotion words, abstract and broad terms that mean little to the reader. Could the descriptions be made more specific or more unusual?
  • Avoid passive writing when possible. Active verbs add vibrancy and immediacy to the story.
  • Watch out for attempts at being witty or philosophical or whatever is in fashion. Anything forced will come across to the reader.
  • Cut, cut and cut again to get rid of superfluous words and duplicate meanings.
  • Of course, grammatical errors and typos must be eliminated.

How to Tell a Great Story

Allowing the words to flow naturally is vitally important to the writer. But with the above in mind, the writer can also craft and hone their writing style until it is streamlined, immaculate and a compelling read. Many aspects or writing style is explored in detail on this site. Browse at will.

In my blog novel, Nora, I developed a narrative style that felt natural for the genre. As it is a thriller, I wanted to keep it tight, but with a few quirks as we enter the protagonist, Nancy's head. She harbours a bitter past that contrasts bizarrely with her present situation as she intrudes upon a millionaire, Vince's mansion. Here, she commandeers his surveillance room only to encounter him behind her. In this story, Vince has been crippled in a car accident and has limited ability to stop her. However, this sets up tension, as we can see in the excerpt from my blog novel, Nora.
 
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© Rachel Shirley 2010
 
 
 

 

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