Transparent Narrative

2010
08.28

Day 46 of life with twin babies. The water is getting scarce and I am starting to hallucinate. My final brain cell will pop any day, leaving me a lifeless vegetable.

That being said, I have been forcing myself to return to a state of normalcy, one action at a time. Don’t get me wrong, my babies are AWESOME; I am just uber tired, and resuming regular activities (writing, exercise… breathing…) has been slow coming. Mostly because I only sleep about 3-4 hours a night (30 mins here, 30 mins there) and these two tiny dictators have a relentless supply of demands.

So, although I have been procrastinating my “writing life,” one of my readers, Melihah (from Desi Blonde), recently commented on my POV post, and had forced me to return. Thank you Melihah, your comment was MUCH needed!

So, on to the meat and potatoes! Quoted from my previous post:

Transparent Narrative is what happens when your reader stops reading and starts seeing. They no longer read word by word, sentence by sentence, or paragraph by paragraph. Rather, they mindlessly flip pages, absorbing the story into their heads, unaware of the outside world and are completely immersed in the movie that is playing in their minds eye. This one thing, above all else, should be the goal of every writer. I know that I made comments about how POV affects transparency, but that is only one piece of the puzzle. Every thing else… I mean everything (character, plot, motivation, word craft, voice, pacing and rhythm, etc etc etc) will determine how transparent your story is. Once again, watch for a post about transparent narrative coming up.

I realize that I made a promise there at the end and never followed through. This is the start of a series of posts about transparent narrative, and hopefully, I won’t be as sporadic with my blogging.

So, as I said/wrote above, transparent narrative is the goal, the most important goal, for every writer.

Wait, what? The MOST IMPORTANT goal, you ask?

Yes. THE MOST IMPORTANT goal.

How can I make such an audacious statement? Well, it’s simple. All of the “rules” you’ve been taught/forced to eat/hide from and pretend they don’t exist, are there because they are a “best practice” to attain transparent narrative.

Why should you start with action (not necessarily grenade-to-the-face action, but tension-inducing action)? Because it immediately draws the reader in. A quick trick to start the movie playing in their head, and thus, begin transparency.

Why should you have a main character that is flawed? Too make them more real. Why make them more real? Because when what you are reading raises a flag as “possibly fake” in your readers head, it temporarily pulls them out of the narrative. To attain transparency, the reader cannot be pulled out even for a moment (then they might realize that they haven’t eaten or showered for days!)

Everything you will be taught; every cool trick or tip from a pro; all of the books on writing; they all point (whether directly or indirectly) to transparency.

So, HOW do you do that, exactly? Great question.

I will answer with a question: how do you write good prose? Obviously the answer is long, variable, and subjective, but for now, know that I will be presenting MY viewpoints in upcoming posts about how to attain transparency through the use of:

  • Character development
  • Character motivation
  • Plot
  • Word craft
  • Voice
  • Pacing and rhythm
  • Tension
  • Point of view (HAHA! I already did this one here)
  • World construction / setting the scene
  • Reader leading (like a magician, making them look over here instead of your right hand)
  • Making (and keeping) promises to your readers
  • Showing vs telling

These are all I can think of for now, but I will surely add to the list as time goes on. For now, keep reading, and if you have anything to add to this, please do! I LOVE to hear how other writers attain transparency!

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5 Responses to “Transparent Narrative”

  1. P. D. Wright says:

    Hey! Nice to se you getting back into blogging again, too. (I finally updated after 2 months – Ryan’s been making fun of me). Now if only we could manage to get ourselves back into writing…

    Well, at least your blog is gonna be inspiring. 😀

  2. roh says:

    Transparency – I like this term.

    The true talent of a writer lies in their ability to translate. They need to translate the images in their heads into words that trigger the same (hopefully) images in the readers’ heads. And do so with a transparency that takes the writer out of the equation.

    Very cool topic. I’m looking forward to reading more.

  3. Myrna says:

    You’re right, Chris, and I’m looking forward to reading more too. Thanks for reminding me what I’m trying to do when I write.

  4. […] Transparent Narrative […]

  5. […] First, let me say that there are many good books, posts, and articles about character development. My good friend, R. Garrett Wilson, has several posts on the subject, so I am only going to focus on how character development affects transparent narrative. […]

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