Narrative Drive is the energy of a story, the force that propels it forward, the promise that something important is going to happen. You create a strong narrative drive with a focused story goal, strong characters, and the questions you raise in readers’ minds.
For example, in the beginning of More Deaths Than One, Bob Stark is reading that day’s newspaper when he comes across the obituary of his mother, who he had buried twenty years before. There many so questions this scene generates that it should be impossible for readers to put the book down until they get the answers to at least a few of the questions. Is the obituary a hoax? If not, how could his mother have died twice? What is Bob going to do? How is he going to find out the truth? How would I react if this happened to me?
When Bob goes to the cemetery to check it out, he sees himself standing by the open grave with his college sweetheart and a passel of children, which raises the granddaddy of all questions --- what the hell is going on? Bob wants to know, and so do readers. (At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.)
By the time a few of these questions are answered, if I did my job correctly, I will have raised more questions to which readers will want the answer, and so the story is propelled forward to a satisfying ending.
If the story goal isn’t focused enough, if the characters are weak, the questions the story raises in readers’ minds falls under the heading of “who cares?” Why am I reading this? Why isn’t anyone doing anything to resolve the problem? When is something going to happen?
Today we’re going to talk about narrative drive. What propels your story forward? What questions does your story (ideally) raise in readers’ minds? How do you create scenarios that engender questions? How do you make sure the questions are ones the readers will care about?
As always, any topic that will help us improve our writing is fair game in these discussions, so feel free to bring up any of your writing concerns.
The group No Whine, Just Champagne will meet here at this article for a live discussion about writing and the writing life on Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 9:00pm ET (8pm CT, 7pm MT, 6pm PT). Hope to see you, but if you can't make it then, the discussion will continue during the days afterward, so please stop by and tell us what you think.