Novel Essentials: Narrative Style
One of the most common axioms in writing is “show, don’t tell.” The atmosphere bluntly stated in the sentence “It was an eerie night,” for example, can be more evocatively conveyed by describing the pallid moonlight, the ragged clouds casting wavering shadows on finger-like branches, or the wind whining like a lonely dog through the tree-tops. In many cases, “show, don’t tell” is a useful and effective tool. But a writer focusing too intently on imagery, similes, and vivid description risks losing the story’s momentum and alienating readers through overly stylistic prose. Perhaps counterintuitively, the best method of telling a memorable story is often to write simply and candidly, using metaphor and simile only when they will heighten the narrative, and being direct—“telling” readers what they need to know—when the aim is to move the plot forward or quickly establish a character’s emotions or the ambience of a scene.
For a sense of well-executed directness in writing, we will look at examples from a variety of published writers, and we'll experiment with showing versus telling ourselves using in-class writing exercises. By the end of the seminar, participants will have gained a better sense of when to employ these different narrative styles and why.
This class will take place in-person at our Center for Creative Writing in Boston's Seaport neighborhood. Please note that proof of vaccination against COVID-19 is required to attend this class. Please submit your proof of vaccination here at least 48 hours before your class begins. Read on to learn more about GrubStreet's vaccine protocol and find information about where to get vaccinated below.
GrubStreet Vaccine Protocol
Please submit your most recent proof of vaccination, which requires a booster shot for those eligible, here at least 48 hours before your class begins. If you have previously submitted a proof of vaccination that did not include your booster shot, you will need to resubmit your updated vaccine card. If you are not able to fill out our vaccination form 48 hours before your class begins, please bring your vaccine card (or a photo of it) with you to the building. Please note that if you arrive for class and you have not filled out the form and do not have proof of vaccination with you, you will not be allowed to participate in the class. And don’t forget your mask! In accordance with the City of Boston, masks will be required at all times while inside the building. Click here to read GrubStreet's full Vaccination and Masking Policy.
Vaccination status: For in-person classes and events, your vaccination status is considered up-to-date until the time you are eligible for a booster – which is 5 months after the second dose in a two-shot series. Boosters are required for all visitors on our second floor if your second shot was more than 5 months ago.
Need help getting vaccinated? It’s free and easy to receive a COVID-19 vaccine! Please visit Massachusetts’ VaxFinder page to find a vaccination site near you. If you'd like to learn more, you can read the answers to some commonly asked questions about COVID vaccination here.
Thanks to the excellent literary citizenship of our donors, scholarships are available for all GrubStreet classes. To apply, click the gray "APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP" button. In order to be considered for a scholarship, you must complete your application at least one week before the start date of a class. Please await our scholarship committee's decision before registering for the class. We cannot hold spots in classes, so the sooner you apply, the better. Scholarships cannot be applied retroactively.
For more more detailed information about GrubStreet scholarships, including how to contribute to scholarship funds for other students, click here.
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- Study Published Writing
- In-Class Writing
- Class Discussion
- The Novel