What is a good narration style for the character-first approach?

I believe it is a style that mingles forward-moving, external action (the character actually doing something) with opportunities for reaction, reflection, and a broader scope. In other words: the reader knows what is happening AND what it means.

In the next lesson, I'm going to offer a full method for designing your scenes and chapters. It's my interpretation of the famous "scene and sequel" method. However, many writers find that approach challenging the first time they hear about it.

Therefore, in this lesson, I would like to offer you a starter framework to try out: the idea that your chapters or scenes should be made up of "pushes" and "looks."

What does this mean?

In a "push," the character does something: pushes open a door and investigates a room, opens a boxes of old letters and reads them, trains with a sword...

You keep going with that action and story progression until you feel like the reader needs a break, or you worry that the reader won't understand something important about the scene. Then you introduce a "look." The character pauses, and either looks at another character, or through a window at the place they are inhabiting, and reflects on what they are seeing. The "look" could be internal, of course. They might be purely reflecting on their own feelings, thoughts.

Keep the look relatively brief, unless you are Henry James, and then start the next push. 

This style of writing leads to a light, clear style where the reader can grasp what is going on. 

Try it out, below, and then move on to "scene and satellite":

link to push and look prompt
  • Question: does each “push” have to be incrementally bigger than the last push, or can they all have about the same amount of tension? Do I need to have the protagonist making a decision after each push???

    This exercise was fun 🙂

  • At the end of the planning exercise, it says “again – do another scene”. Do you really want us to enter multiple scenes once we get to the end of the first one & share them with you? Or was this to indicate that we should be “pushing and looking” with all of our scenes on our projects?

  • provspa329 says:

    I’ve bookmarked this for use down the road.

    • nicki.nance says:

      Your questions were incredibly helpful to me. I was wondering in two scenes were enough or too much. Your second made me think about the intensity of the two scenes I wrote about and how I might sequence them. Thanks for the help.

  • nicki.nance says:

    I have done this for two scenes and everything I had fit easily on the first run. On the second run, I saw how I could improve not only the scene, but the sequencing of my protagonist’s ventures to the portal, which I had struggled with.

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