Saturday, 14 September 2013


I have been a bit quiet on this blog recently because I have been very tied up in a momentous event, for me anyway, my daughter got married to a wonderful man. The whole event got me thinking about the layers of narrative in our lives.

The photo is one of many that were taken in a shutterbooth which caused a great deal of hilarity for many people at the wedding. This picture in itself has so many layers of narrative to it. A photo of 3 women who happen to sisters who all have stories to tell. It is a narrative of happiness and laughter but also missing and loss partly embodied by the white rabbit.

I love using photos as triggers for writing as you know (I have previously spoken about how Trafficking was inspired by a photo). You look at a picture and you take in what you see but also what you don't. What are these people thinking? What do they do? Where is their family? But also you spend your life creating narratives as you tell the stories of your day to those who care. Or retelling a funny/sad story you have heard. It is all about spreading those narratives.

When writing you have to understand narrative too. Your story should have multiple layers creating depth to bring the story alive. Narrative allows you to create links between events and cultural moments that are part of a developing story. You cannot have a story without a narrative, it is naturally integral. In the same way narrative is not only confined to 'realist' writing. It may not be immediately obvious but all stories in whatever format will have an embedded narrative.

There will be a narrative within each scene, chapter and complete story. As you develop your characters they will develop their own narrative in the same way that any setting will also have a narrative behind it. Not necessarily always obvious but there to inform your writing. Having an understanding of all these narratives will help you add the required depth to your story. For the reader this embedded narrative gives them the tools to decipher and make the connections between the various clues that when linked create the story and those pictures in their mind. But the cause and effect within a narrative can also be used to confuse the reader. This is reliant on the reader wanting to impose a narrative on certain sequential events. It is up to the writer then to turn this narrative on its head and prove the reader wrong, as in all great thrillers/crime stories, where you are certain you know 'who did it' only to proven totally wrong by the end of the book.

Look at the world around you and explore the narrative you are in. When reading think about the multiple layers of narrative involved and this awareness will be reflected in your own writing. Have fun with it.

I would like to introduce you to the very talented Caitlin Gilligan singing her own song Moon Child. I just love the imagery and narrative she uses here. I'd rather be putting the stars in your eyes and painting the sky with you too. Check out Caitlin''s page

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