How to Construct Professional Quality Prose–An Introduction to The NORTAV Method: Part 5
If you haven’t read the previous posts to this series, do so now, starting with Part 1.
At this point, you should know that:
Now let’s move on to Thoughts.
A Thought beat describes the conscious or semi-conscious thoughts of a focal character—-analyses, memories, realizations, musings, calculations, prior knowledge, etc.—-as the story unfolds, moment to moment. To continue to show how beats are linked one to another, and to maintain the narrative context we established so far, I will add examples of Thought beats that follow (and are linked to) the previous Reaction examples I used before. Keep in mind, a reader must ALWAYS understand how and why you have linked one beat to the next, else they may become confused. The relationship between beats can be formed by stimulus/response, by logic, or by any other means (explicit or implicit) that will guide the reader from one beat to the next. Also remember, we will label the beats in our examples using beat markers such as: [N], [O], [R], [T], [A], [V].
A few things about Thoughts. First, Thoughts can often be confused with Narration. Look at the Thought portion of the first example. Who is telling the reader “He was beginning to like Ginny. A lot.”? This could come across as a bit of narrative intrusion, but because we have put the reader deep into Harry’s perceptions and activities, the reader perceives this as Harry thinking to himself. This is important to note. The narrative context you create will determine how the reader perceives your beats. If you don’t understand that you are creating a narrative context with your prose, or if your context is not consistently rendered, you risk confusing the reader. Also note the narrative tag in the last example: “the dog thought”. This is a minor narrative intrusion. There will be times when in crafting your Thoughts it will not be abundantly clear that the beat is a Thought as opposed to a bit of Narration. Or, you may find that you need to insert a tag for pacing or other purposes, such as to make it clear which character in a group of characters is having the Thought. As long as these thought tags are infrequent, and as long as the rest of your prose is rendered in as pure DCE as possible, this is fine, as the reader will gloss over the narrative intrusion and still perceive the beat from “within” the focal character, much as the reader will in a Vocalization beat when you are forced to use a tag (“he said”, “he answered”, etc.). More on that later.
A note about keeping your narrator’s presence out of Thoughts: Again, sometimes the difference between the reader experiencing a beat directly through the focal character (DCE) or feeling as if a narrator is telling him/her about the beat (NCE) is in the phrasing of the beat. Like with other beat types, avoid using narrative “tags” in your Thought beats except when absolutely necessary. Tags are the verbs that describe the beat type itself. For instance “he thought”, “he considered”, “he wondered”, “he mused”, “he contemplated” are all tags for Thoughts. Narrative commentary on the Thought itself is another form of narrative intrusion. Check out the following examples and notice the different ways a narrator can sneak into Thoughts:
Characteristics of Thoughts:
Repeating Reminder #1: Examining NORTAVs is not like examining grammar. With grammar there is an objective right or wrong answer. With NORTAVs, things are far more subjective. Sometimes a beat is clearly of one beat type. Sometimes a beat is clearly of one prose style. (This is your prose construction goal!). Many times, however, if the narrative context is poorly established or if the beats are poorly constructed, a beat might be experienced (and therefore defined) as more than one type of beat, and therefore it could be defined as belonging to more than one style of prose. Thus, two readers can arrive at two different, yet equally valid impressions. The result: potential confusion. As a reader, this is a bad thing. As a writer, it’s absolutely lethal to the quality of your prose.
Let’s end this part by creating some Thoughts. You saved your work from Part 4, right?
Done? Great! Post some examples here if you’d like!
Repeating Reminder #2: You are learning how to work with NORTAVs (by using ORTAVs and avoiding Ns) to create one specific, “primary” style of prose: DCE. You are not attempting to change your current writing style! You are attempting to learn the fundamentals of prose construction so you can use that knowledge consciously (either during your writing phase or your editing phase) to eventually create professional quality prose in your own style. Or, if you are already experienced, your goal is to learn the knowledge so you can polish your prose to an even more professional shine.
That’s it for Part 5. See you at Part 6!
Click here to view list of all parts of this post series.