Story surrounds us, from the daily blog post to the sum of our Tweets. We must be mindful of narrative and embrace the power to manipulate loved ones and strangers with our plight or the plight of the fictional people whose voices we hear in the night. Stories must be engaging (read: make the reader feel like his or her life is much better or much worse than the protagonist’s) if they are to be picked out from the slush pile of the Internet.
Sure a story has a beginning, middle and end, or at least in these post-modern times we can dare to dream that it will. But what goes between those points? Page by page, word by word, character by character — how is narrative crafted?
A story begins when something changes and it ends with a win, loss or draw. The middle isn’t the middle, and the rising action is, rather, a series of hooks, uppercuts and jabs both given and received by the protagonist.
The elements of fiction (character, point of view, setting, dialogue and exposition) work together to beat up the reader and the writer and fully abuse all of the characters involved, leaving everyone battered and bruised and ready for a post-climax cigarette.
Put on your boxing gloves, and grab a cold compress, the bell has rung and the craft of narrative is on.
Melissa Lion is an award-winning young adult novelist. Her two novels, Swollen and Upstream, have been published by Random House. Upstream is currently under option for a motion picture. She has taught English Composition and Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College of California and Pepperdine University. She is also a professional book critic and blogger and is a co-producer of Back Fence PDX, a live storytelling series.
She lives in Portland, Oregon.