Writing Exercise: A Character’s Diary

Olive picker female olderThe first-person mode isn’t for all of us. It can be hard to carry a whole narrative on the shoulders of a character’s personal perspective; you need to pay attention to the character’s voice while still having that character tell us all the information we need to follow a story.

That being said, I still think it can be helpful to write in a first-person perspective now and then. In particular, I think it can be helpful to craft a diary entry for a character – or two, or twenty, if you feel the need. They don’t have to be long, and they don’t have to follow any particular format. Indeed, you might find that one character jots down lists and bullet points, while another prefers more conventional paragraphs. Some characters might keep careful track of the weather, while others might be particularly concerned with another character’s behavior toward them.

You may even find that a diary entry turns into another, and another, and another until you have enough material to fill a book. This is great, but you must be careful to edit your diary entries so that they follow some sort of plot. Make sure that you leave out entries that take us too far away from what is happening in the narrative you’ve created. Cutting out excess wording can be an unpleasant experience, but it’s sometimes necessary to transform this writing exercise into a marketable narrative.

Although I have written longer stories in a diary format, I prefer the third person for the vast majority of my work. Diary entries, for me, are more of a tool I use to get a good feel for a character. It helps me develop their speech patterns, the kind of metaphors they use, and the things they notice about the world I’ve built for them. It seems fitting that for the vast majority of my readers, these diary entries will remain a bit of a secret.

Which Narrative Mode Is Best for Your Story?

Pair of pearsEvery story has a storyteller. The narrative mode you choose for your story has a significant effect on the way your story will be perceived by the reader. Here, we’ll take a brief look at the most common narrative modes in contemporary fiction. This is by no means a comprehensive listing of all the narrative options available to the writer, but these voices are the ones you’ll use most frequently in fiction and non-fiction alike.

  • First person narratives are a sound choice for writers who want to create an intimate emotional connection between the reader and the narrator. Many beginning writers are advised to avoid first-person narratives because of the difficulty of showing the story to the reader rather than merely describing it when using this voice. However, with thorough editing and careful attention to the balance between the story’s action and a character’s inner thoughts, a first-person narrative can be a powerful and emotionally moving story.
  • Third person limited narratives make it easier to use strong imagery, to show your protagonist’s reactions rather than tell the reader about the emotions within, and to handle dialogue. Because your disembodied narrator knows and sees only what the single character it’s following knows and sees, the third person limited mode can be a tough choice for conveying a complex world that needs to be explained to the reader. However, it creates an elegant and streamlined narrative that gives the reader an intimate experience comparable to a first-person narrative.
  • Third person omniscient narratives allow you to use multiple characters’ perspectives to lead the reader through the story. Although it takes practice and careful editing to jump between perspectives at the right time, this narrative mode allows you to give the reader a complex look at the world of your story. It’s particularly handy if you want your readers to know things about your characters that they don’t know about each other.

Every stylistic choice we make has an impact on the works we write. Narrative mode has a particularly significant impact, because it largely determines what kind of information the reader will be getting throughout the story. By choosing a narrative mode that closely fits your storytelling goals, you can ease your storytelling and help your readers understand the meaning of your work.