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  • Seminar
  • In-Person: Seaport
  • Adult (18+)

Novel Essentials: Narrative Style

No Longer Enrolling

  • $85.00 Non-Member
  • $75.00 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 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.

Consider taking this seminar alone or alongside the other seminars in this series: Novel Essentials: Narrative Perspective (April 13), Novel Essentials: Narrative Pacing (May 25), Novel Essentials: Arcs and Endings (June 22).

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 in-person at our Center for Creative Writing in Boston's Seaport neighborhood.

Covid-19 Update:

GrubStreet's space will be mask-optional when Boston's Covid-19 Community Level is low or medium. When the Covid-19 Community Level is high, our space will require masks. Please check GrubStreet's Covid-19 page for the latest info on masking and Community Levels before visiting in person.

Space Accessibility:

Our space is ADA accessible with automatic door openers, ADA-compliant restrooms, desk and table spacing, braille signage, and elevator. Our classrooms can be equipped with ALS for hard of hearing individuals. We cannot guarantee a scent-free environment. For more accessibility requests, please contact our Operations team at [email protected] or (617) 695-0075.