Writing Narrative vs. Writing Script

I spend a portion of my free time editing fan fiction chapters for teenagers who apparently spend their English classes texting their friends. Somehow, I keep finding myself giving the same lectures.

  • Read your piece out loud to yourself.
  • Actually try watching/reading the show/movie/book you are trying to write for. (I could write a book on this one at this point.)
  • Complete sentences are your friends.

Recently, another lecture has been worming its way into my lecture series: write a narrative, not a script. Oddly enough, the first time I gave this particular lecture, it was, “Write a script, not a narrative,” because the girl in question was supposedly writing a script. (Sadly, it was a far better narrative piece than any of the narrative pieces she had ever sent to me for editing.)

There is a huge difference between writing narrative and script. It’s not just a formatting issue. When you write a narrative piece, you have to create a world in words that the reader can imagine. It should have some description, but it shouldn’t have so much description that it does all of the imagining for your reader. That’s insulting to the reader. When you write a script, you’re writing for a smaller audience that might need more of a picture drawn for them. You need to include enough detail so that a creative team can bring your world to life visually. This will require more description, and at the same time require more clarity in the writing style if you yourself are not going to be the creative team.

If you ever doubt this, I invite you to check out the first chapter of my manga script. I’d be lying if I said that my (former) artist was utterly thrilled when he read over it. My art direction had such little description in it that I honestly think he’d have thrown a freshly sharpened pencil at me rather than sigh dejectedly when he reached the third page.

Similarly, I recently finished one of my past NaNovels and put the first couple of chapters up to be critiqued. Every single critique came back the same, and I had to agree with them. The prologue is full of flowery description that annihilated the mood it was trying to create. As a result, those who made it past the prologue were surprised to discover a good story hiding out behind this horrid abuse of the adjective.

Consider your intended audience. Be respectful of your intended audience. Give them what they need to enjoy your writing, and make that all you give them.

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