CRAFTING INCREDIBLE PROSE
1. Put us inside your head. There are many different styles of narrative voices but what makes your prose work is when it’s characterized by narrative honesty. Great prose gives us the sensation that we’re reading an author’s internal monologue, that voice inside our heads that narrates our lives and speaks to us constantly. If you’re having trouble with your prose, start really paying attention to your internal monologue. Is the voice inside your head funny, sarcastic, dark, brooding, superficial?
2. Stay away from the phrase, “I felt.” Many writing students rely too much on this phrase, which does little to put your reader inside your head. Instead of saying “I felt angry,” think of the exact words that went through your head at the time. For instance, “At that moment, I hated him for being so tall. That was what was to blame. It wasn’t his infidelity or the way he never seemed to have money when it was time to pay the bill – it was his height. He’d been born too fucking tall.”
3. Surprise us. When you truly put us inside your head, the thoughts you come up with are often surprising. While sitting in a hospital lobby waiting to see whether a loved one will live or die, we don’t always think about death or how much the person means to us. Sometimes we worry about where we placed our dry cleaning ticket. Be really honest in your prose and it will always be interesting – even if you’re writing about dry cleaning tickets.
4. Be specific. Instead of writing about “an amazing dinner we had over the weekend,” tell us that you dined at Madame Chong’s, that you ate spicy prawns and an onion peanut sauce over Chinese beers with your best friend from Arizona State, telling stories about the night you wrecked your ex-boyfriend’s Toyota pickup.
5. Avoid self-pity. When your situation is dramatic, it is completely unnecessary for your narrator to highlight the drama. In fact, try and find the commonplace in a terrible situation. In short, don’t tell us how awful an awful situation is. Instead, try and channel your narrative monologue and put us inside your head.
TIPS FOR IMPROVING YOUR NARRATIVE VOICE