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(C) 2001 BK Reeves/BASIC FICTION

Remember that narration is one of the four kinds of discourse (which is communication). The other components of discourse are exposition, description and argument.
 Exposition “exposes” facts or explains
 Description gives your reader images
 Argument appeals to the reader’s reason or emotion
 Narration is an account–the telling–of all the action or events in a story.

An author who has a story to tell, begins with decisions. Every phrase and sentence is the result of an automatic decision.
Her characters are constructions. She decides who and what they will be, what they will feel and do, how they will impact upon one another, as they embark on a deliberate path of narrative.
Further decisions are points of view, first or third person, tone and slant. (Slant is an author’s own personal take on her story, and includes her beliefs and opinions. These are delivered not by author intrusion, but by subtle argument, usually in subtext. Or not. It depends on the type or genre of story.)
So, from setup to resolution a writer must be prepared to tackle all the elements of discourse that pop up on the page.
However, if she is unable to properly construct grammatical sentences, has no clue as to punctuation, doesn’t know how to deliver interior dialogue or punctuate it, wouldn’t recognize a run-on sentence (comma splice) if she met it in the dark, doesn’t understand verb tense, thinks being passive means she’s lying on her couch, forgets to paragraph or indent, she’s going to have a difficult time writing anything long or short.
Is there hope? Yes, certainly. If she is willing to work very hard re-learning all she was taught in the eighth grade. We do forget these “little” things if we don’t use them. To have a prayer, an author must engage in a program of remedial study. She should review parts of speech, phrases and clauses and all of the above. When she gets back a passage from a teacher, she should note every correction and learn to do it right.
This is basic craft, and has nothing to do with the story burning in her heart, or her need to tell it. Craft is first, technique is second. How will she bring emotion off the page, make her reader recognize the vision she has of these characters and what happens to them? Craft can be learned or relearned. Technique is learned only with practice, and that means actually writing. Producing words on paper, striving to make them mean exactly what she dreamed they would mean, delivered to a reader who sits alone and scans her words off a page and receives her message or story and remembers. (This is resonance, or take away value.)
Should she wait to write? No, indeed. She should write as she studies and learns again. She (and you) should read published books and note how dialogue and inner dialogue are punctuated, how commas are used, how the author has handled person and POV. Above all, she should remember that authors who have published anything understand–in their bones–these worrisome basics and use them automatically. As must she. It behooves writers to dig out those old grammar books and get to work! Review, review, review. #

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