01 July 2008

Dialogue, Introspection and Narrative, Scene and Summary

1) Question:
What is a good percentage mix of Dialogue, Introspection and Narrative? Is there a good mix, or is it just what fits the story? Suspense romance writer -Florida

A story unfolds in scene, of course. And, scene is usually made up of dialogue and always action. But the dialogue I'm talking about is dialogue that advances the plot, NOT dialogue that is mere information dumping.

Introspection can give insight into the inner workings of the character, but is inherently flat and thus slows the plot. Therefore introspection should be used sparingly. This also goes for narrative. Telling--summary--puts distance between the reader and the story. Showing--in scene--draws the reader deeper into the story. Use "telling" sparingly.

2) Question:
I noticed that on page 189 which is Appendix 5, you plotted the beginning Summary in the "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines Plot Planner example.

Why is that so? I thought we were not suppose to plot summaries? Is it because this is the very first opening sequence which introduces the inciting incident which happens to be a Summary and not a Scene? You note on this page that "this story begins with Summary, establishing the overarching conflict". I'm confused. Your clarification would help. -New York

You're right -- you are not suppose to plot summaries for the reason stated above.
The Plot Planner is a device meant to give you a visual picture of your story. I stress scene over summary primarily because the #1 problem I see many writers make is "telling" the story rather than "showing" the story. Summary may introduce vital information and thus is helpful to have available on your "visual plot map." However, I would indicate on the Plot Planner, if/when you include a summary. That way you can assess the frequency with which you use telling in place of showing for pivotal scenes.

3) Question:
I'm presently working on my plot planner and was reviewing your book again and was curious again about a few things you mentioned about summaries and would like some clarification please. -New York

On page 74, why do you ask to "determine if there is conflict in the scene or summary you are analyzing" if we are only to analyze and track scenes?

You're right!! Drat! Thanks for catching the discrepancy. I'll delete summary in that statement in the next printing of the book. Thank you.

4) Question:
Also, on page 67, you noted that "if your story begins with a summary there may not be any real action to indicate on the scene tracker. Summary is telling and so it does not usually involve real action." So are you saying that if you start your story with a summary and it has some action that we should track it on the plot planner (and this would be the only scenario to track summaries?)?? I'm only asking this as you noted that summary does not "usually" involve real action. So when a summary does involve real action, is it still a "summary" or a "scene"??

Hmmmm, does summary ever involve real action? Summary "tells" about action that has happened. What is important in a story is the action that is happening moment-by-moment on the page. True action is the step the character takes right now at this moment in story time. Again, I think you have picked up an oversight in the editing of the book. I apologize for any confusion this has caused you and will change the wording in the next printing. Thanks again for your help!

***Any of you writers out there have any comments or help to offer??? Thank you in advance.