Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Advancing Through Dialogue, Narrative, Or Action?

While writing Fight or Flight, one of the biggest obstacles I've faced is how to advance the story.  There's a bunch of information to get out there, and sometimes I don't know how to get from here to there.  To my way of thinking, there are three ways to do it - dialogue(characters speaking to each other), narrative(I can just tell you), and action(showing the characters doing something).

The way I normally like to do it is through mostly action, with some reliance on dialogue.  It keeps the story fresh and in the moment.  However, Fight Or Flight takes place over 73 years, and I can't write a three million word tome that would encompass all of that.  Therefore, I've had to rely on narrative a great deal more than I usually do.

It has forced me to prioritize which parts of the story get action.  How important is the acquisition of the materials needed to build the escape ship?  The main character loses his wife and boy but finds a new wife and has more children.  How much of each relationship can I focus on?

Sometimes I have the characters reveal important plot points with dialogue, but that can only take you so far because it's too similar to narrative.  The only real difference is that characters talk to each other about it rather than allow me to do so as the omniscient narrator.

These things seem to me to be dictated by time and breadth of the novel.  A story like Salvation Day is continuous and can be told by following a character along each step of the journey.  That lends itself to action, which, if it can be done, is by far the best way to tell a story.  In Fight Or Flight, 73 years from beginning to end doesn't allow that.

This is where a writer must be organized.  Flying by the seat of your pants just won't work because you'll forget what's important for the audience to know.  This will lead to either taking the reader down an unimportant rat hole, or it will lead to skipping over large parts of the story that are important.  By figuring out in advance what to tell and what to merely mention, a writer can save himself a lot of struggle.  Since getting to the end is a struggle anyway, why add more than necessary?

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