Balancing Dialogue and Narrative

dialogue-bullesYou have to find the right balance between dialogue and narrative, especially in the first chapter of your novel. While slow to start openings with a lot of narrative were popular at one time, these days, readers prefer a faster-paced opening.

One way to pick up the pace is to add dialogue. If dialogue just doesn’t work for a particular scene, consider throwing in a line or two of internal thought.

I’m not trying to minimize the importance of narrative. It is very important and necessary for the success of your story. Narrative is used to establish background details, setting, tone, and to set up scenes. However, narrative, by its very nature,  will slow the pace of the story and halt the active momentum.  Too many long sections of narrative will eventually bore the reader.

A quick tip for judging if your novel needs more dialogue is to print out the first chapter. If you see long paragraphs with little white space. You need to add dialogue.

If an agent or publisher sees long paragraphs and no white space, odds are, they are going to toss your work to the side. If a potential customer sees long paragraphs and little to no white space while they skim the pages, odds are, that book is going back on the shelf.  Give your reader some action, get the story moving.

Something to think about.

-Jan R


Balancing Dialogue and Narrative

4 thoughts on “Balancing Dialogue and Narrative

  1. I see some manuscripts that go too far in the opposite direction and have almost all dialogue, with insufficient narration to give context to what the characters are talking about, where they are, what’s happening around them… That problem, I think, is caused by those writers learning all their storytelling techniques from screen fiction. Television and movies are great for learning how to write dialogue, but because all the “narration” is handled as visuals instead of words…

    Narration-heavy openings can work, but only if the descriptions are vivid/interesting enough to catch and keep the reader’s attention. Passive description of setting hardly ever works; the narration needs to be about something happening (but not necessarily a car chase, cops-and-robbers shootout, ninjas attacking some hapless university student’s house, or other noise-and-commotion sequence). I also think that a first-person story can carry more narration than one in third person, because the main character’s “voice” is there throughout.

    As you say in the title of your post, it’s about balance between dialogue and narrative.

    Liked by 1 person

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