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The Mechanics of Fiction Writing

Click on thumbnails for video lecture links:

Lesson 15.
The Narrator: A Primer

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Begins our survey of the narrator by discussing the two most common misconceptions about narrators and a theory about why most writers are imprecise when discussing narrators and narration on the whole.

Lesson 16.
Character vs. Non-character Narrators

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The most important distinction when determining your narrative posture is whether the narrator is a character in the story. So much flows from this choice a writer makes before writing the story. Here we discuss the attributes of Character and Non-Character narrators and some advantages and disadvantages of each.

Lesson 17.
The Unreliable Narrator

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A child, a psychopath, and a robot walk into a bar. And none of them is a reliable narrator. Here, we'll cover a surefire way to understand what makes a narrator unreliable and how this varies depending on the type of character doing the narrating.

Lesson 18.
Narrative Distance

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How close should you place your readers to the action? For how long? And When? You need to know what tools the writer needs to use to place an audience close to the action and what tools move the audience out to a distance. Here, we’ll discuss how to close and open psychic distance between the reader and the story.

Lesson 19.
Time of Narration

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Your narrator tells the story. Great. But when are they telling the story? This matters a lot, especially if you want to create a sense of suddenness or chaos, or if you want to generate a nostalgic picture of a time long past. Knowing when your narrator narrates the story is an important aspect of narrative posture that will help you keep your story straight.

Lesson 20.
The Narratee,
and Other Loose Ends

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Who is your narrator speaking to? How can you tell when this is critical for your reader to know? And a tangential journey into the historical present, complete with important lessons from John Cheever and Truman Capote.

Lesson 21.
Viewpoint: Who Sees?

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Taking command of how your readers envision your story is as important to a writer as camera placement to a cinematographer. Don't make the mistake of leaving it to chance, and certainly don't conflate "point of view" with "voice," as many writers and instructors do. Make sure you know who's speaking, and then ask the question: "Who sees?"

Lesson 22.
Speech Representations

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Writers have successfully represented characters' speech and thoughts in many different ways through the ages. We'll survey the commonest (and some uncommon) ways narrators can speak for the characters in the stories they're telling.

Lesson 23.
Sins of Attribution

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In addition to adverbs and overwrought verbs in dialogue tags, we discuss what makes expository dialogue grating on the reader's nerves. Like most writing axioms, these conventions are rules that can be broken for the right reasons, but first, you have to know the reasons for those axioms.

Lesson 24.
Realism and Idiolect

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Characters aren’t people, they’re characters. And one of the major differences between characters and people is that people generate their own dialogue while the narrator does that for each character. Embracing the artificial nature of characters’ speech will paradoxically allow the writer to write more realistic, easier to read dialogue for their characters. Here we discuss why this is and offer a strategy or two for embracing this artifice.

Lesson 25.
Unconventional Narrative Postures

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Lots of successful stories have adopted "non-traditional" styles of narration. Here we look at one oft-adopted narrative posture—"you" narration. Though it may be new to you, 2nd-Person narration is more common than you might think, and it's been well studied by literary scholars.

 

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