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
  • the prompt locked me inside..I did two rounds of it(Two full scenes :)),and it still did not let me go..how often do I have to repeat the lesson until it sends me back to this page?

    • We are doomed to remain in the labyrinth of push pull scenes until released by the coursemaster! Yes i got caught too, but simple came back to this page after 2 rounds. I might come back for some more exploration.

    • Luke Kendall says:

      I’m pretty sure it’s just Daniel’s way of saying “Now rinse and repeat as necessary till the end of the scene.”

  • ymmonteiro says:

    Thanks for these worksheets/prompts. The questions are forcing me to move our of my comfort zone and ‘think’.

  • Really enjoying these prompts. Something thta was tightly furled by perfectionism is now unwinding. I knew this the course I wanted.

  • Great prompt! I worked with a very new idea, not even a complete outline, and it helped me so much. Thanks!

  • Luke Kendall says:

    I think this is great advice, since I like to ‘see’ and feel the reactions when significant stuff is happening. (Daniel, in case you’re wondering why I rated the lesson’s value to me only as 5, it’s because I already agree with the points it’s teaching.)

  • This approach makes intuitive sense to me, it’s reassuring to know that this is a credible strategy for designing a scene. Most of my professional writing experience comes from writing up very nonfiction memo’s and reports on government programs and science stuff, so being able to write out the narrator’s thoughts and opinions is refreshing!

  • Brent Johnson says:

    I’m not entirely sure I understand this. If I do, it seems to me that it’s mostly about your character introspecting about what he/she is doing and experiencing. Or the narrator explaining. I’m guessing that reacting (the actions taken) counts as “pushing” and that the reasons for reacting count as “looking.” Is that right?

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