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Guidelines, Notes, Criteria for Prose Narrative Writing and Enhancement

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Below are elements that all would-be narrative fiction artists should consider, regardless of genre - prior to fingers touching the keyboard, and while the fingers are tapping. These elements should be used in this forum for helpful critique as well as writer editorial purposes. 

Keep in mind, that aside from the notes which follow, a great story premise with a strong plot and excellent characters will keep reader eyes on the page most effectively. All else is extra but necessary recipe - cliché but true.

=> For those about to post a sample of their prose narrative, this forum will serve you best if you post a three or four page scene taken from your opening pages. Make certain to include dialogue, preferably at least 30 lines. Note at the top of your post where this scene takes place in the context of the plot line, and the purpose it serves, for example:

  • OPENING SCENE - Introduces antagonist, setting, tone, and a foreshadows the primary conflict.

=> However, if you wish to begin this process by posting a preliminary 500 words or so, feel free to do that. Again, it's preferable if these are your first five hundred. And please SINGLE SPACE. No one here is writing notes between the lines and no one on Earth reads double-spaced pages in published novels.



att.jpg Don't Neglect Energizing Dialogue - Nothing like great dialogue to create a page turner, especially if the characters are important to the story, and to the reader. Make it crisp, snappy, and relevant. When in doubt, dose with conflict. 

att.jpg Utilization of Artful Hyperbole in Dialogue or Interior Monologue - Surreal descriptions, provocative statements, e.g., suggestion that an unusual or dangerous event might occur; and what about objects that manifest a fearful or mysterious quality? 

"The tips of her fingers are a funny orange, like the tip of a soldering iron."

"You are at a nightclub talking to a woman with a lightning bolt on her nose."

"A homeless child with crazy green eyes was threatening an old woman on the subway."

"It's even worse than you expected."

att.jpg Matters of Scenes and Sets - Have you chosen in such a manner that verve and uniqueness are potentials by default? Are they capable of producing provocative or interesting imagery? Consider a single best setting for the most energetic scene.


att.jpg Quality of Description - Nuances and Shimmers. What will be the most vital, provocative, or unique image in any given scene? Imagine it. Be aggressive. Consider proper similes and metaphors. Also, what is the best way to render vivid descriptions, whether static or dynamic? This an art form that many fiction writers fail to master. Again, keep in mind your choice of scene and set in the first place. Articles to read:

Experiments in High Impact Narrative  /  A Great Damp Loaf of Description  /  Prose Narrative Enhancer Tool

att.jpg Quality of Narrative in General

att.jpg Ruminations and Imaginings - Does the point-of-view character abstract, comment, muse, daydream? And btw, what are the TRIGGERS for these states of mind? Allow the POV character to ask questions of themselves, to doubt, to rationalize. Is the character also flashbacking to the past, fantasizing a scenario that involves them, perhaps in the future? A sexual fantasy? A fantasy of revenge, a memory of a past love, a dream world? The "setting" of the mind can often inject verve on the page if the scene set is a bit quiet.

att.jpg The Power of Event - Is there a defining or powerful event taking place, one capable of having impact on all present? Has a building collapsed and blocked traffic? Is a fight or argument taking place nearby? A parade, a protest? Car accident? What makes sense for your time and place?

att.jpg Minor Complications - Miscellaneous things that trip and confound. The immediate energy of a good minor complication cannot be overstated when it comes to overall narrative verve.

att.jpg Protagonist Sympathy Factors in the Hook - The below is a tangent to this topic, but an important tangent. Why? Because the elements above must be devoted, in part, to the early development of the protagonist. If you're going to be posting narrative samples from the beginning of the novel (which is most beneficial) then you must take this issue into consideration.


Novel Writing on Edge is a time-tested and trusted source for all genres on the topics of novel writing, development, editing, and publishing.

Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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