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  • Seminar
  • Online: Zoom
  • Adult (18+)

Novel Essentials: Narrative Style

No Longer Enrolling

  • $65.00 Non-Member
  • $55.00 Member

Class Description

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 to establish without ambiguity 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 such writers as E. M. Forster, Willa Cather, Jane Austen, C.P. Snow, and Leo Tolstoy, and we will experiment with showing versus telling in a series of 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.

Part of GrubStreet's Novel Essentials Series, led by Ursula DeYoung and dedicated to exploring the fundamental building blocks of the novel. Classes include:

Scholarships Format/Location

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 detailed information about GrubStreet scholarships, including how to contribute to scholarship funds for other students, click here.

This class will take place using Zoom videoconferencing. Please visit the Resources tab to access the video-conference link.

Zoom Participation:

Students are not required to turn their camera on, but are encouraged to participate any way they feel comfortable through functions such as the live chat, emoji reactions, and unmuting the microphone. Learn more about using Zoom here.

Zoom Accessibility:

We ask that instructors enable closed captioning and send a transcript of the session after class. You can also enable closed captioning at any time during the meeting. If your instructor forgets to send the transcript, just send ’em an email!