Kristen Roupenian’s “Cat Person” handles character interiority masterfully. Here are 10 tips we can glean from the story.
There is a distinction between author, narrator, and character.
The author creates the story.
The narrator tells the story.
The character lives the story.
These are three distinct entities, which exist on different planes.
Once the author becomes visible, the enchantment of the story dissolves. The author is the creator of a story, but the author should never be a part of the story. The author is the man behind the curtain. Reveal the man behind the curtain and the Wizard of Oz narrative dies. What sorts of things reveal the author? Here are 12.
Information conveys states of mind, states of existence, but not states of affairs (unless you’re dramatizing the past via a flashback, but that’s not conveying the present-time story state of affairs). But if your information (facts, past, interiority, context) is not relevant to the story’s state of affairs, your reader is going to tune it out—or worse, come to distrust your narration.
External refers to what’s happening outside of characters’ minds. It’s the stuff that an observer could see. You could film it pretty easily. Internal refers to what’s going on inside a character’s head: feelings and thoughts. Prose storytelling regularly informs us of characters’ interiority in ways that, say, a screenplay cannot.
So, first of all, it’s worth noting that most of the story’s momentum comes from the “What’s going to happen next?” question, and that’s a question that arises from present-time story. Most of the story’s meaning, however, arises from the time digressions.
I introduced this concept of scenes vs. summary in my post on the four ways to break down page-level craft. Here, in more detail, is what scene vs. summary is all about. And I’ve included some explanation on how the story writer can benefit from knowing this aspect of craft.
Here are four ways to break down what can be included on a page. There’s some overlap between these, but it’s helpful to consider these four breakdowns when you’re crafting your scenes.