How to Construct Professional Quality Prose–An Introduction to The NORTAV Method: Part 7

How to Construct Professional Quality Prose–An Introduction to The NORTAV Method: Part 7

If you didn’t start with Part 1 do so now.

At this point, you should know that:

  • Prose is constructed by using thirteen different types of beats to create three different styles of prose.
  • The first or “base” style of prose, Direct Character Experience (DCE), reflects the perceptions and activities of a character, with no sense of a narrator.
  • The character through whom these DCE perceptions are reflected, and through whom the reader experiences them, is the focal character.
  • There are six basic or “primary” beat types called NORTAVs. That is, Narration, Observations, Reactions, Thoughts, Actions, and Vocalizations.
  • Five of these six beat types are used to create DCE: Observations, Reactions, Thoughts, Actions, and Vocalizations.
  • We have covered all DCE beats: Actions, Observations, Reactions, Thoughts, and Vocalizations.


  • Let’s end this primer with a little about Narration, the second prose type, and Narration, the final primary beat type [N].

    If Direct Character Experience is a type or style of prose that hides all sense of a narrator, than Narration (the prose type) is the opposite. Narration (the prose type) hides all sense of a focal character. It is the narrator speaking directly to the reader about information that does NOT pertain to any focal character’s perceptions or activities. Narration (the prose type) includes only one type of beat: Narration (the beat type [N]). A Narration beat is a single unit of non-focal character information. What’s a unit? I’ll get to that in a second.

    An Example of Narration (the prose type):

    Find a comfortable chair. Sit. Relax. Put your feet up. I’m going to tell you a story, and it’s a long one. If you thought Tolkien’s masterpiece was a giant, this one dwarfs that hobbit tale. I heard it many years ago from a one-eyed Irishman, a kind old man who came to the United States in search of a better life for his family.

    Note there is no focal character here. Nothing is happening moment to moment. There are no character perceptions or activities. This is (an extreme) example of a narrator telling information about the story directly to the reader. Now, how do we break up this example into individual beats of Narration? We do that by breaking the section in units, where each unit describes a new topic or point and where each unit leads logically to the next. There is no one right way to do this. Narration, just like a good essay, will lead the reader from point to point to point. Because there are no focal characters, logic is the ONLY way to lead a reader through Narration. In DCE, it is the focal character’s perceptions and activities that form the chain through the prose. Here’s one way to break up the example:

    [N] Find a comfortable chair. Sit. Relax. Put your feet up. [N] I’m going to tell you a story, [N] and it’s a long one. If you thought Tolkien’s masterpiece was a giant, this one dwarfs that hobbit tale. [N] I heard it many years ago from a one-eyed Irishman, a kind old man who came to the United States in search of a better life for his family.

    Can you distill each beat down to its basic notion? Try now.

    Here’s my take:


    [N] Get comfortable.
    [N] I’m going to tell you a story.
    [N] It’s a long story.
    [N] It was told to me by an old Irishman.


    When Narration is built properly, you should be able to distill each beat down to something like this, something that clearly gets the information to the reader, point by point, albeit with far less color and detail. If you can’t distill your beats down to an “outline” type of structure that is crystal clear from start to finish, then the odds are your narration is incomplete or rambling.

    There is far more to Narration (the prose type) and Narration (the beat type) than this, but I’ll stop here.

    So what’s left?

    Quite a bit, actually. In this primer we’ve only scratched the surface of prose construction. Check out The NORTAV Method for Writers: The Secret to Constructing Prose Like the Pros to learn more, such as:

  • The First Type of Prose: Direct Character Experience
  • The Natural Response Sequence
  • The Second Style of Prose: Narration
  • The Third Style of Prose: Narrated Character Experience
  • Narrative Modes and Narrative Schemas
  • The Four Cs of Revision


  • By using The NORTAV Method you will be able to design unlimited, unique writing styles, create patterns for using one or more writing styles in your work, perform a NORTAV Analysis–a powerful new tool for deconstructing, examining, and revising prose–and much, much more.

    Did you save your work from the previous parts? Great! You now have 30 new writing prompts. I challenge you to turn each into a new work of fiction!

    I hope you enjoyed this primer and learned something new along the way.

    Click here to view list of all parts of this post series.

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