Write what you say, not what you readA Lesson by Mike Lamb
If you're not at least moderately witty and interesting by nature, this is going to be tricky. If you are, on the other hand, milk it.
Narration is a tricky thing that can easily become boring without the aid of imagery. It's not a movie or a comic book. The only things you have are your words. How do you keep people hooked? First off, think of your five favorite authors. Got it? Good. Now FORGET THEM. You're not re-writing their books. Here's what you should be doing. Go to the bar with your friends. Get drunk. Tell stories. Make people laugh. Make it interesting. Make it crass. Make it philosophical. It could be any story. The time you got wasted and pissed on a cop car. The fight from high school where the fat kid whose name you forgot got his teeth knocked out. The time you were at the strip club and it caught on fire. Anything. The crazier the better. Now write it out exactly how you told it. Even if you're alone with an imaginary audience, think about the best way to tell the story. Describe what you need to in order to paint the picture, but don't lose momentum. Now read what you wrote. Does it make sense? If not, what details did you leave out? Does your personality shine through? Or if you're trying to create a personality distinctly different from your own, does that come through? Do you speak in fragment sentences? Run-on sentences? Bad grammer? Do you constantly use contractions? Do you use slang and swear a lot? Then write that way. Imagine yourself as an actor and these are your lines. Would it sound forced? Stiff? Or could you repeat it in a natural tone of voice that didn't seem scripted? Go back over every sentence. Does it sound stupid? Not stupid in a humorous way, but in a "I was trying to sound smart and things went horribly wrong" sort of way.
Now, let's say you've come up with something fairly good, put parts of it are still, for lack of a better word, dumb. You have a couple of options. One, you could re-word it or delete parts of it. Two, you could make it even worse...on purpose. This is especially true in first person narration. Keep in mind that since the main character is narrating himself, he only knows what that character knows. Would he understand rocket science if forced to explain it? Or would he get it all wrong and try to fight anyone that corrected him? Or maybe he just flat out doesn't care. When you get down to it, facts are just a very persistent belief system. People write books on history and science, and everyone says, "Yeah, that sounds about right." So if someone corrects you on some obscure fact that the average person has no knowledge of, ask yourself if doing it wrong is more entertaining than getting every detail correct. Would the character misquote facts? Would he tell inappropriate jokes that nobody laughed at? Would he forget what he was talking about and trail off midsentence? Would he screw up things that he should have been trained to do perfectly? Flawed storytelling can work to your advantage, but only if you handle it just right. If it doesn't fit the personality, it's useless. Now if it's bad dialogue, you can still leave it as long as another character follows it up with something witty, usually mocking what the other person just said. I'll go more into dialogue later.
Added on September 12, 2010
Last Updated on September 25, 2010
AboutArtist, writer, and a drunken lunatic prophet. I am the author of Jack's Inferno, a dark comedy bizarro/horror novel about Hell, previously published through Wordplague (now defunct). I am also a pro..