Ep. 105: Do Your Scenes Work?

Do Your Scenes Work? by Leslie Watts from www.writership.com

In this episode, I'm joined by best-selling author and fiction editor Valerie Francis while Clark is away. We critique the prologue of Shadow Falls, a thriller novel by Maxwell Perkins. Scenes are the building blocks of your story, but how do you know if an individual scene works? Valerie and I use Shawn Coyne's Story Grid analysis to look at what's working in this opening scene and how the author might make it stronger.


We have a special treat for you. The author is a professional audiobook narrator, and agreed to share a reading of his submission with us. We weren't able to include it in the podcast episode that aired, but we've included it here in the show notes. We're considering having professional narrators read the submissions in future episodes. If you have a moment, please let us know in the comments or at hello@writership.com if this sounds like a good addition to the podcast.

 

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Wise Words on scenes

There is just no hiding for a writer when it comes to a scene. It either works or it doesn’t. There is either a very clear shift in value from beginning to end—a change—or there isn’t. If there is no change, no value at stake, no movement, the scene doesn’t work. And if the writer’s scene doesn’t work, no matter how well he can craft a sentence, his Story won’t work.
— The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne

Mentioned in the Episode

You can find the video about Ian Rankin's writing process here

You can find Shawn Coyne's original post on the Five Commandments of Storytelling here, and this is an episode of the Story Grid Podcast in which he takes a deeper dive into these topics.

Want to learn more about Valerie? You can find her here

 

Editorial Mission—Check Your Scenes

Review a scene in your story to discover whether it's working, and why or why not, by unpacking the six elements of a successful scene (You can see our analysis of the submission in the letter to the author below):

  • Inciting incident: an action or coincidence that throws the main character in the scene off balance
  • Progressive complications: the obstacles that get in the way of your main character's scene goal
  • Turning point: an action or revelation that brings the main character to a point of no return
  • Crisis question: having reached a point of no return, the character faces a choice of the best or two bad choices or two irreconcilable good choices
  • Climax: the main character's choice
  • Resolution: what happens as a result.

If you find something that’s missing or that could be made stronger, add it to your list of items you need to fix (rather than trying to fix it right away). 

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Editing Advice to Our Author

Dear Maxwell,

Thanks so much for your submission! Valerie and I both enjoyed reading your prologue and getting to know your characters and found that this scene had us fondly remembering Stand by Me.

I’m concerned after the fact that this may not be as helpful to you as we’d like it to be in light of the fact that the characters don’t appear again in the book and that we’re seeing this scene out of context more so than we normally do for a submission. I hope some of this discussion will be useful to you, though, if not with this scene than with others.  

We looked at the scene through the Story Grid (SG) filter, and it’s certainly not the only way to assess a scene, but it’s one we’re both familiar with and that we’ve found helpful. I can’t speak for Valerie, but for my part this framework provides specific and actionable feedback that’s better than a vague sense of something’s not quite right here. Shawn Coyne developed this tool out of necessity. He needed a way to show authors how to fix their stories so that they could become best sellers because acquiring a certain number of successful books every year was a requirement of employment. But it also makes sense to me in light of what I know about story and where stories come from and why we tell them. I could go on about that, but this is meant to be a written critique of your scene. I could see how this might feel like unwarranted criticism, though, so I wanted to explain this.

I want to make it clear that in our assessment we don’t speak for Shawn Coyne, and this isn’t an official SG pronouncement. With these caveats, we present one way you could look at the scene using this framework.

The Story Grid has five commandments of story and one “little buddy”:

  1. Inciting incident: something happens that throws the character or world out of balance.
  2. Progressive complications: escalating degrees of conflict related to what the main character in the scene wants (sometimes to regain the status quo, sometimes something else).
  3. Turning point (little buddy of the second commandment): a point where someone acts or information is revealed that forces the character to make a decision.
  4. Crisis: the dilemma that the character faces that can be distilled this way: the best bad choice (like the lesser of two evils) or irreconcilable goods (two positive but mutually exclusive options).
  5. Climax: the moment when the character acts based on his decision.
  6. Resolution: shows the world after the character has made his choice.

If we look use this framework in the scene before us, we could break it down this way:

  1. Inciting incident: Mikey decides at long last that he will jump.
  2. Progressive complications: Depends on who the main character in the scene is. Anthony wants Mikey to jump. It’s not altogether clear what Mikey wants because he says he will jump, but then seems to have second thoughts. Our discussion on this point is pretty speculative.
  3. Turning point: This is another point where we’re not clear. Again, it depends on who the main character is in the scene. We get a closer view of Anthony, so let’s assume it’s him first. He wants Mikey to jump, and Mikey is stalling. If Mikey decides he’s not going to go, then we might have a turning point that requires some action on Anthony’s part to get what he wants, but Mikey never says he won’t. If we look at Mikey as the main character in the scene, there is no turning point for him unless, for example, he learns that there is a dead body in the water below.
  4. Crisis: This is a little confusing because we’re still left with the question of will Mikey jump or won’t he. Anthony doesn’t make the decision, and Mikey doesn't face a clear best-of-bad or irreconcilable-goods question (as far as we know because we’re not aware of what he’s thinking and feeling). Is he worried that Anthony would never speak to him again, for example? We don’t know what the consequences might be if he decides not to jump.
  5. Climax: Mikey decides to jump.
  6. Resolution: Mikey jumps. Jon has discovered a body in the water, which causes Mikey to vomit. This is where we would argue that the scene turns, but the conflict about Mikey jumping in the water has already been resolved, so this turn didn’t impact his decision.

Although I feel confident of this analysis of the scene, it doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. It’s your story, no one knows it like you do, and I’m well aware that I could have missed something. I also think that all the elements are here for a scene that works under this construct, that you could shift the discovery of the body, but you should do what feels right to you. 

The analysis that I feel less confident about is whether this works as a prologue for your story because I don’t know what happens later to see how it fits in. My biggest concern, which we shared in the episode, is that the reader might wonder what happened to those kids from the prologue. Does that matter? It depends on what comes later. The only thing I would add after the fact is a consideration of Chekov’s gun, but again that could only be assessed in light of the whole story. If we had an omniscient POV showing the boys from a distance and revealing how sometimes things go wrong who saw the boys from a distance without our getting attached to them and noted how it could be dangerous (for the reasons cited), but that mostly this is a great place to swim, then that would appear to be more relevant to the overall story, but again, it’s hard to say without knowing where the story goes from here.

Thanks again for your submission, Maxwell! It presented a fun challenge for us!

All the best,

Leslie

 

 

This Week's Submission

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Ep. 104: Revising Your Action Scenes

In this episode, Clark and I critique a scene from Beneath the Crypt, a middle grade fantasy novel by Alex Heath. We talk about how to evaluate and revise your action scenes. When characters fight, chase each other, or engage in acts of derring-do, it can be hard to keep track of all the moving parts. Often, the clear image of how the action unfolds in our minds doesn’t make it into the story. If you unpack what’s happening in your action scene, you can make sure that it does everything you intend, and nothing you don’t.

Ep. 104: Revising Your Action Scenes by Leslie Watts at Writership.com

 

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Wise Words on Action Scenes

However, Hollywood films are not good examples of action scenes for books. Action scenes in movies are eye candy, designed to give the viewer a visual “Wow!” at the awesome feats. But all these action scenes flash by in just a few seconds. The viewer doesn’t have time to even think about how impossible that stunt is. In a book, the reader is with that scene a lot longer. She has more opportunity to say, “Wait a minute. They can’t do that.” And the moment she does, you’ve lost her.
— Linda Adams

Additional Resources and Links

Want to find out what Henry did to upset the thief of Carcassone? Read on here

Clark mentioned that the most realistic fight scene he’s observed is in Old Boy with Josh Brolin.

John Wick with Keanu Reeves is a movie with fight scenes that are realistic in how they portray the combatants’ energy.

To find great examples of dialogue in action scenes, check out Spider-Man comics.

 

Editorial Mission—Unpack Your Action Scenes

In episode 67, we asked you to look at model fight and other action scenes to help you revise your work. This week, we want you to unpack your own action scenes.

Use an action scene you’ve written and record what you observe in a list of what happens in the scene. Add every instance, one per line, of the following:

  1. action a character takes (e.g., character throws a punch)
  2. piece of information that’s revealed (e.g., character notices the bad guy has a knife)
  3. result or consequence (e.g., man falls to the ground)


Once you’ve exhausted everything you can think of about the scene, put the items in chronological order. Here’s an example:

  • Fred slashed at Joe’s face with his knife.
  • Joe ducked under Fred’s arm.
  • Joe kicked the side of Fred’s right knee.
  • Fred shouted.
  • Fred fell to the ground.
  • Fred dropped the knife.
  • Joe grabbed Fred’s wrist with both hands.
  • Joe twisted Fred’s wrist.
  • Joe felt the bones crack.
  • Joe felt relieved.
  • Joe saw Fred’s friend walking toward him.

This is a simplistic list, but it will give you a clear view of what you have and what you need. When you're done, review the list and ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it make sense? 
  • Have you missed any crucial actions, pieces of information, or results?
  • Does each element appear in the best place in the sequence?

Next, consider the setting and where people and objects are, especially in relation to one another. I recommend drawing a diagram and using small tokens (I use Lego minifigures) to show keep track of people and objects, especially if you have a battle or an action/fight scene that involves more than two or three people.

Think about visibility. Is it a crowded street, the woods at night? What can your POV character actually observe (sights and sounds)? Does this affect the action as you’ve laid it out?

Once you’ve done all this, then revise your scene. You could approach this in different ways. You could use your new understanding of the scene to revise the one you’ve already written, write it from scratch, or begin weaving the sentences in the list together into a scene.

Why go through all this work? Action scenes are intense, fast-paced, and often contain several different elements. Sometimes the author has such a clear vision of the scene as a whole, as if it’s a video playing in their minds, that they don’t see and record the individual elements to transfer that conception to the reader’s mind. Unpacking what you’ve put on the page can help you discover if anything is missing.

Please remember this is a tool for revision! I wouldn’t mess with the minutiae while writing an early draft, but when you review it, if you deconstruct the action this way, you can be sure that what you imagine in your mind’s eye ends up in the story.

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Editing Advice to Our Author

Dear Alex,

Thanks so much for your submission! Beneath the Crypt sounds like a fun adventure story, and Henry and Aurélie are great characters to play with. Even though we’re jumping into the middle of the story with no other introduction to the characters, it was easy to follow. The approach of the mysterious figure is a great hook to pull us into this scene, and the open question you leave us with at the end of the scene is intriguing and would make it hard to put the book down.

Clark and I focused on action scenes for this episode, and I think you’ve done a nice job of conveying who is doing what, where, and when, which as we mention in the episode can be a bit tricky. Although combatants in a fight don’t have time for a lot of reflection (unless one is skilled and facing an unworthy opponent), I think you could make the scene stronger with more reaction from Henry. I’d love to know about Henry’s experience in the fight, what he’s feeling physically and emotionally, and how he reacts what’s unfolding.

One example is when the thief faces Henry, and we get a pretty good look at the black-clad figure through Henry’s POV—with the exception of his face, of course. We see what he’s wearing, that the only armor he’s employed is a helmet, and that he is thin and lightly built (which could possibly clue the reader in to his identity or not depending on your intent and what you’ve revealed before this scene). We also see his weapon and that he is advancing on Henry with apparent violent intent. In the next paragraph, we see that Henry is scared and not sure what to do, but don’t know if he is generally scared or if something he’s seen and concluded about his opponent evoked the reaction. If you were to weave in a direct connection between his observations and what he does, the details you reveal would be immediately relevant to the scene before us rather than only the description of a character.

We noticed that you don’t have a lot of dialogue in the scene, and that may be in part due to what’s happening. As it opens, Henry and Aurélie are resting and wouldn’t necessarily be speaking. The thief is trying to avoid revealing is identity, so he might not want to speak if his voice is distinctive. Consider if there are opportunities when Henry or Aurélie might say a word or two periodically to break up the narrative and alter the pace.

We can’t assess this from only one scene, but wanted to mention this because it’s important in fantasy stories. The magic used in an action scene should be consistent with how magic is used in the story world in general. This is a helpful item to add to a revision checklist for anyone who writes speculative fiction.

For picky stuff, we flagged a few echoes and awkward phrasing in our comments. We spotted some places where specific verbs would enable you to cut some adverbs.

Note: We’ve labelled this middle grade fiction, but other factors within the story could tip it into young adult.

We appreciate your sharing this entertaining scene with us, Alex! Thanks again for trusting us with your words!

All the best,

Leslie & Clark

 

Line Edits for Our Mystery Story

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Ep. 103: Narrative Identity and Why It Matters in Your Fiction

Narrative Identity and Why It Matters in Your Story www.writership.com

In this episode, Leslie and Clark critique “A Hero Least of All,” a literary short story by Tim LaFave. They discuss narrative identity and why it matters for your writing. As humans, we use story to make sense of our lives, and it’s important to understand the stories we tell about ourselves and the how this impacts our writing. We consider how being aware of our own narrative identity can help us revise, and we can use this emotional energy as fuel for our characters. 

 

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Wise Words on Stories

Stories are the way we make sense out of the events of our lives. Individually and collectively we tell stories in order to understand what has happened to us and to create meaning from those experiences. Storytelling is fundamental to all human cultures, and our shared stories create a connection to others that builds a sense of belonging to a particular community. The stories of a particular culture shape how its members perceive the world. In this way, stories both are created by us and shape who are. For these reasons, stories are central to both individual and collective human experience.
— Daniel Siegel, MD, Parenting from the Inside Out

Additional Notes

Clark’s covers narrative identity in his course Punch Them in the Gut: Writing Fiction with Emotional Impact.

The two books on narrative identity that Clark mentioned are How Our Lives Become Stories, Making Selves and Living Autobiographically, How We Create Identity in Narrative by Paul John Eakin. Remember that Clark said these books are fairly technical. 

We have a Patreon shout-out for E.A. Hennessy, the author of the steampunk novel Grigory's Gadget.  

 

Editorial Mission—What's Your Story?

The more clearly we see and understand our own stories, the more we can use our emotions to fuel our stories, make our characters relatable, and connect with our readers. This week, look at your own life’s journey and where you’re at today. What stories do you tell yourself about your life and why you do what you do? Then consider one of the stories that you’ve written or are working on. Where do your stories show up? How can you bring more of your personal journey to make it more specific and connect with the reader? 

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Editing Advice to Our Author

Dear Tim,

Thanks for your submission to the podcast. “A Hero Least of All” gave us the opportunity to talk about narrative identity, a topic near and dear to our hearts. Like anyone else, writers mull over our concerns and worries, so they naturally find their way into our stories. It’s a great way to process events that are beyond our control and change the course of our own lives.

Michael is a great example of the way we can make sense of life because, given his circumstances, he could have been a very different person. Acknowledging that home isn’t what he would have wished for, but that the letters are his anchor in his present life demonstrates the way we use story to create a helpful narrative and cope with challenges. It’s not that he sees the world through rose-colored glasses, but he sees the world benevolently enough to keep him from falling into despair or lashing out. 

You’ve done a great job helping readers empathize with Michael through the details you shared and the way he navigates a world that is not kind to him. We all know someone who is a bit awkward or sees the world differently, and I think your story helps people understand them better. This is one of the powerful things that stories can do—not only help us make sense of the world, but also to understand others’ experiences and worldviews. I found the story deeply touching, and I can't help but wish that the future holds something better for the Michaels of this world.

Just like any other story, the ones inspired by challenges we face need to work and avoid extra elements that don’t add to the telling. When you write for an audience beyond yourself, I recommend checking that everything included supports the story (the anecdotes, metaphors, descriptions). Not every aspect of what happens in real life will be relevant.

I also think this could be made stronger by showing us an episode or two from his hometown, the mail call episodes (before and after as contrast), and when he walks into camp after wandering around in the woods for three days. The third omniscient POV gives you lots of latitude to reveal powerful details to help the reader experience those scenes.

Generally speaking, when we use aspects of our personal stories in fiction, we need to make them worse or better than ordinary life in a memorable. Just as we wouldn’t include commonplace dialogue, make sure that the emotions and situations we include are larger than life. You’ve captured this well. For example, Michael doesn’t have one annoying nickname, he has many, some of which are humiliating and came to him through no fault of his own. He picks up new ones wherever he goes.

We did a light copyedit of the manuscript, and I’ve pointed out a few picky items in the submission. I suggest omitting scare quotes because they can become like speed bumps to the reader, and I made some other punctuation edits as well.

Thanks again for sharing your story with us and for trusting us with your words.  

All the best,

Leslie & Clark

 

Line Edits for our Literary Fiction Short Story

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Ep. 102: How to Choose Your Story's Point of View

Ep. 102: How to choose your story's POV by Leslie Watts at writership.com

In this episode, Clark and I discuss point of view in our critique of “The Second Prayer: A Confession for the Dead,” a thriller short story by David L. Storm. Point of view seems like a straightforward choice. It's the filter through which the reader experiences your story: Each option has advantages and disadvantages and can produce vastly different results. If you have to change it in the revision stage, it's a big job, but worth it if you find the right POV for the story you want to tell. 

In our editorial mission this week, we share a list of questions to ask when you choose the story's POV for your first draft and later during revision. Our author has graciously allowed us to include the entire text of his story, and you'll find that below, after the inline critique. 

 

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Wise Words on Point of View

Selecting the best point of view from which to tell a story can be puzzling. Because you originally conceive an idea in first or third person doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Often it’s good to rewrite the story in another person to see how it changes. Sometimes writers, after a number of drafts, have realized that the real story lies elsewhere—in the mother’s view of the daughter, not the daughter’s view of the mother. Such changes in perspective have resulted in breakthroughs that have astonished their own authors.
— Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction

Additional Notes

Grab an official copy of David L. Storm's The Second Prayer: A Confession for the Dead!

Clark mentioned two stories films in which the viewer sees the story from multiple points of view. They are Roshomon and Vantage Point.

 

Editorial Mission—How to choose your story's point of view

When deciding and reviewing point of view, consider the questions listed below. No single factor should necessarily determine your choice. As Clark mentioned, when you’re deciding on a POV, it’s a great to experiment with different options. Try different characters as well as first, third limited, and omniscient to get a feel for how the story feels most natural. 

  • How many perspectives do you need? (The shorter the work, the more likely you’ll want to stick with one person.)
  • Do you need an objective or subjective narrator?
  • Do you need to contrast character’s actions? (As Nick Mamatas noted: “If a character’s thoughts match his or her actions exactly, the thoughts aren’t interesting and are probably not necessary to share.”)
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each choice? This Writer’s Digest post lists the advantages and disadvantages of each point of view.
  • Whose story is this? Who has the most at stake? Who changes the most as a result of the events of the story?
  • Who has the best vantage point? Whose perspective can best convey the story to convey your controlling idea or theme?
  • Who has the best and most interesting voice?
  • Do you need more distance or intimacy? (You can adjust narrative distance within the POV, but this is accomplished far more easily in third omniscient than third limited and first.)
  • Which character has a secret you want to avoid revealing early in the story?
  • Consider the MICE quotient and who can best reveal the events of the story given the main factor in yours. (Not mentioned in the episode, but check out the advice for our author for a brief discussion.)

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Editing Advice for Our Author

Dear David,

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us! “The Second Prayer: A Confession for the Dead” has a fascinating premise for a psychological thriller with so many great elements. The twist you have set up is spectacular and ambitious for a short story. I love that you’ve taken on this challenge!

Our biggest suggestion is to reconsider the point of view, including the character and possibly the type. Point of view is important in every story, but particularly critical when you want to reveal some facts and hide other facts. It’s hard to hear because this would mean a substantial rewrite, but you have stellar ingredients for a huge twist, and we suspect that a different point of view would make this powerful.

As Clark mentioned, we couldn’t think of any elements that we would cut or add (except that we think you could expand this into a novella or a novel)—our main advice is about how and when you reveal the events of your story.

The key to this can be found in your logline: Two people know why Jimmy stepped off the curb in front of a truck, and one is dead. Since Jimmy knows, he could simply tell us, and from his point of view, there is no mystery about why he did it. (Unless the story were about him waking up in the hospital and having no recollection of the facts of his recent past. But that’s quite a different story.)

The detective, Ben Sanders, doesn’t know why Jimmy acted the way he did, but wants to know so he can build a case against Jimmy in the death of Linda Belle. He’s a great character to guide us through the story and ask the questions we would want to ask.

Another way to look at it is through the lens of Orson Scott Card’s MICE quotient story factors: milieu, idea, character, or event. I hadn’t thought about this before we recorded, so we don’t talk about it in the episode. I share a brief explanation here, but if you want to find out more, listen to episodes 6.10 and 8.20 of the Writing Excuses podcast and Karen Woodward’s excellent posts on the topic.

Within that system, you could frame this as an event or character story, but the logline and genre point to an idea story: Jimmy Grant had it all, so why did he step off a curb in front of a truck? And the reason this is important is that this single fact changes how we see everything in the story.

As written this is an idea story, so it begins with a problem to be solved (building the case) or a question to be answered (Ben must know why this happened). If the question were, how am I going to get away with this, then Jimmy might be the best POV character, but again the powerful twist comes from the question of motive, and Ben is the person in this story who wants to know that and with whom the reader is most closely aligned.

You have such a fantastic and inventive twist! Thank you for the opportunity to talk about this and for trusting us with your words.

 

All the best,

Leslie & Clark

 

 

Line Edits for Our Thriller Short Story

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The Full Story

 

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Ep. 101: Check Your Narrative Distance

In this episode, fiction editors Leslie and Clark critique the beginning of Osweyth, an epic fantasy novel inspired by Cornish folklore by JM Hudson. They discuss narrative distance, omniscient point of view, and moving smoothly between vantage points. They also talk about the weather as a character in the story, lush prose, sentence and paragraph length, and commas. The editorial mission asks you to check your narrative distance, that is how close your reader is to the character or narrator.

Check Your Narrative Distance by Leslie Watts at writership.com 

 

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Wise words on narrative distance 

Psychic Distance is a concept which John Gardner explores in his book The Art of Fiction, and I think it’s absolutely crucial, not difficult to understand, and not nearly talked about enough. You’ll also find it called Narrative Distance because, basically, it’s about where the narrative (and therefore the reader) stands, relative to a character. Another way of thinking of it is how far the reader is taken, by the narrator, inside the character’s head.
— Emma Darwin

Additional Resources

The useful article about narrative distance we mentioned can be found on Emma Darwin’s site, This Itch of Writing.

The comic book writer Clark mentioned is Joshua Crowther.

Don't forget to check out Clark’s new course, Advanced Novel Writing with Harry Potter!

 

Editorial mission—check your narrative distance

Narrative distance (also known as psychic distance) is a term to describe how far away the reader is from the character or narrator who’s revealing the story. Even within a single point of view, you can be far away from the character and her experience (the equivalent of watching a scene from the back row of a theater) or actually within the character’s experience and feeling what they feel or knowing their thoughts in their own words.  

This element is also related to showing and telling because the greater the distance between the reader and the character, the more the narrator or character tell us about what’s happening rather than showing us or allowing us to experience it. The distance you need to tell your story effectively will vary across the entire book and within individual scenes.

The examples from John Gardner and Emma Darwin in her post we mentioned in the episode will help you get a better feel for the extremes and the levels in between.  

Once you have a sense of these levels, check a scene of your own. Consider the narrative distance as written then what you think would be ideal for what you need to accomplish and what you want to show the reader. Use the following elements to assess then adjust the narrative distance within the scene.  

  • Word choice and sentence structure. Is the prose in the character’s own voice and using words she would use, or in the voice of an objective, story-telling narrator?  
  • Which details about the setting and characters are revealed? Things only the character would know and notice? Is the reader told about feelings or opinions regarding the details, or are these conveyed through the character’s actions or words? 
  • Are there details the POV character wouldn't normally think about?  
  • Do you hear the character’s direct thoughts or about what she’s thinking? 
  • Including thought verbs (e.g., think, know, believe, understand, realize, want, hate, remember) or tags for observations increases the narrative distance.
  • Explanations about the location and what’s happening do the same.
  • The character’s own facial expressions unless she’s gazing in a mirror or reflective surface increase the distance as well.

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Editing advice to our author

Dear J M,
Thank you so much for your submission! You’ve provided us with the perfect opportunity to talk about narrative distance (aka psychic distance) and how it affects point of view in stories.  
You’ve used third person omniscient POV so the reader can observe the action from many vantage points, which is helpful in an epic story like this. The way you employ narrative distance helps us ease into the location and becoming familiar with the characters.  
We have a lovely progression from a tiny figure, to a small girl, to feeling what she feels and realizing she is only four years old. Then we hear her speak and see her interact with Jowan. (By the way, she is a captivating character, and I feel a strong urge to read on to find out who will win the battle of wills between her and her father.)
There is a similar progression with Jowan from soldiers noticing that something is amiss to eventually learning that he has a pet name and no small affection for the feisty four-year-old, who also happens to be of royal blood.
The movement from Byhan to Jowan is smooth, not jarring. You’re training the reader how to read your book. And, I suspect we are seeing very characteristic moments for both these characters: Byhan lying in the mud during a squall and feeling the vibration of the waves crashing against the stone beneath and Jowan fearing for her safety, scolding her (though not harshly), and remembering that the odd things about her in a commoner’s child would probably mean death.
There’s not a lot going on in this scene in terms of action: A young noble girl rushes outside in a violent rain storm and falls in the mud. Soldiers notice her, and one in particular rushes to see that she’s all right. While he scolds, her father arrives and then another person (possibly her mother). But in execution you’ve added so much. This is a great opening scene that reveals way more than simply what happens.
As Clark mentioned in the episode, you’ve avoided presenting a laundry list to describe the characters, and instead, helped us get to know them by showing us who they are in their environment with their actions.
The way you’ve employed the weather as a character in this opening supports the story well. Your lush and poetic prose and word choice are a great fit for an epic fantasy inspired by Cornish folktales.
Our suggestions for you relate to items you’ll want to consider in the later stages of revision. You have a lot of long, complex, and compound sentences, and there’s a lot of information to hold in the mind before the reader reaches the end. In part, the description is forceful (not forced), like the storm. This is great, but we were wondering about sustaining this throughout the 100,000 or more words of the story. (You may have already considered this.) When you start editing at the level of paragraphs and sentences, consider the reader’s experience and make sure the level of detail and the complexity of the sentences are manageable. It’s not that there are no short sentences, it’s that the long and complex ones stand out.
Beta readers, especially those who are close to your ideal reader, should give you some great feedback on this point. Some readers enjoy a challenging read, so it’s more about a good fit than a particular word count per sentence. (Does that make sense? I have a book I’m reading for fun that has long, complex paragraphs with very little white space on the page. I love it, but not everyone will want to read The Sea & Civilization: A Maritime History of the World.)  
Watch for comma usage (again, this is something you shouldn’t wrestle with until later stages of editing). I’ve marked some instances in the submission below. With complex prose, you’ll want to make sure the punctuation aids clear understanding rather than following the rules. Still, readers are used to seeing punctuation show up in a certain way, so I recommend keeping as close to "normal" as possible. Clear as mud?  
The last thing I want to mention is that you handled the Cornish words well in this opening (even though my pronunciation was terrible!). The meaning, or enough of the meaning, was clear from the context in each case.  
Thanks again for your submission!
All the best,
Leslie and Clark

 

Line edits for our epic fantasy story 

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