Fictional Time

Fiction writers need several skills to bring their story to life for readers. One of the most crucial skills to master is the use of time. What may take place over a month in the story may take the writer a day to craft and may take three minutes to read.
Writing Tip for Today: As novelists, or even in nonfiction, time management is crucial. The levels of writing, in terms of how the reader perceives it, go from fastest reading to slowest reading. Narration, Dramatic Action, Dialogue, Description and Exposition make up these levels. Let’s define them:

  • Narration. The fastest reading of all, here the writer summarizes for the reader. Use narration to get quickly from one plot point or important event to the next, as a bridge between scenes that are not consecutive or to gloss over unimportant details.
  • Dramatic Action. This is the meat of a scene, where you are helping the reader see the story as a film or play acted out in front of them. Act out important things such as plot points, scenes that move the story forward and places where you intend to show the reader something.
  • Dialogue. Pretty self-explanatory, but because dialogue reads quickly, the writer cannot afford to let characters talk about the weather, go on and on about nothing or say anything that doesn’t contribute to the story goal or the character goal. Try to edit out all hesitations such as ers, ums, wells and so forth. To get better at dialogue, practice listening to people talk.
  • Description. Now we’re really slowing down. Description halts action, and while you may need to use it to slow down a fast-paced scene, try not to write more than a paragraph of description before you touch base with the real-time scene. The longer you are away from the action, the more likely you’ll lose your reader.
  • Exposition. These days, few writers of fiction can get away with exposition that goes longer than a couple of lines at a time. When you veer away from people and scenes and force facts or a lecture down a reader’s throat, you are likely to lose the reader. Ask yourself if you have some agenda–such as you want to educate your reader. Hardly ever works, because readers can sense when they are suddenly getting unasked for information. Use with caution.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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