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Amy Lou Jenkins is the award-winning author of Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting

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Where Is My Narrator?   by Robin Bateman


You've sat down; mapped out your plot, identified your characters, now it's time to write.

I always go for the unrestricted write first; you never know where complete freedom takes you. But once you've decided, don't forget to develop your narrative presence.

Huh? Narrative presence? Do I even have that?

Yup. You do, and incorporating a fully, or even a somewhat developed one into your writing, whether it be poetry, short story, or a full fledged novel, allows your work to bloom into a wonderful garden complete with visual richness and aromatic flavor.

What is narrative presence, (NP)? Well, in writing, it's the subtle (or not so subtle) presence of the narrator, aka, the storyteller. In other

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 words, the storyteller is alive and kickin', and communicating directly with the reader. NP captures the reader's attention and then engages him/her. Lots of writers use it without thinking, but, if you consciously use it, purposefully develop it, your words not only come alive, your story breathes --mountain air, bathes --under moonlight, buries --bodies under damp clumps of dirt.

Okay, so NP is a good thing, how do I include this technique in my writing? How do I cultivate it?

First, decide who will be your storyteller. Because NP works in all situations and every point of view, anyone you chose can be the narrator. The choice is yours and you have unlimited creative license to establish whomever you want to convey your story. And, he/she can convey it anyway you want.

Then, examine where you might utilize narrative presence. HINT: The answer is everywhere, consider some of the following:

Inner Thoughts - The most common use of NP is seen when an author adds the inner thoughts of the storyteller. In doing so, the reader is given a unique opportunity to really get to know the storyteller. The technique is a great way to gain sympathy from the reader as well as add humor or sarcasm, among other emotions, to your words.

The following is an example of thoughts being told to the reader. The event is Lunch on the Lawn where parents bring lunch to their high school students. The author could have stated she forgot about the event, but instead, she chose to share how she feels about forgetting by sharing her inner thoughts:

So maybe I have a valid excuse, maybe I don't. Either way, I still fee like a loser. How could I forget? OMG! It's lunch on the lawn day for Laney. The parents bring in food from the know, Ingleside pizzas or sushi rolls (Laney's fave) from Makata's.

Descriptions - Ask yourself, how does the storyteller see, think, and feel about the particular environment he/she is in. Maybe the desk is messy with stacks of paper, office supplies, yesterday's empty coffee mug and granola bar wrapper, but how does the storyteller feel? One NP may relish the mess as a creative den, while another feels guilty for being such a slob. Here is an example of an author describing what she is doing:

This morning it's up and out the door to pick up trophies. At work I had a glitch with the tournament software. The phone never stops ringing; parents want their children's play times... among my other usual Friday admin activities. I was multi-tasking like a maniac. The author's use of the word maniac speaks volumes.

Voice and style - If your narrator is a quiet, and reserved, or loud, and obnoxious, or afraid and nervous, then your approach to cultivating his/her narrative presence should mirror those same characteristics.

Scrunched beneath her hiding spot, Stephanie had a perfect view of Kerry's leg.

The author could have written... Jammed underneath the desk with no room to move, Steph's heart thumped in beats that hurt against the inside of her chest. She was gonna have to stop fallin' into these messes and "straighten up and fly right" as her daddy used to say. But for now, she gave a good eyeball to Kerry's pant leg, frayed jeans he swiped off the table at a flea market in Fresno.

Both descriptions allow the reader to get to know the narrator.

Furthermore, you can add narrative presence into many types of writing, poetry and non-fiction, etc..

The really cool thing about NP is its versatility. Any character you pick to be your storyteller. He or she can wear narrative presence with style, or gaudiness, or awkwardness --the possibilities are endless. In addition, NP works with varied forms of creativity; from poems to novels, and…you can weave textured narrative presence in just about anywhere --inner thoughts, descriptions, etc.

When you lace your words with developed NP, your work comes alive, you've captured the attention of your reader and guaranteed his/her return. Don't take my word for it, go ahead, have some fun with NP and see what your readers think.


About the Author

Robin Bateman is the facility manager for the Tattnall Tennis Center in Macon, Ga..Bateman is a contributing editor for Racquet Sports Industry Magazine, the communications director for TennisConnect, and an author and moderator for http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for writers