Finding Balance Between Dialogue and Narration

writing a bookWriting a book is a challenging feat, one that many people set out to do and find too difficult. Self-published authors, especially, have lots of challenges facing them, but the payoff is great. Self-publishing a book is a great way to get good stories into the hands of eager readers. Anyone can self-publish, and that’s part of the beauty of the industry: how open it is to everyone.

At DiggyPOD especially, we aim to help the writer every step of the way. With comprehensive how-tos, easy-to-understand formatting templates, and eagerly helpful employees, DiggyPOD is the self-published author’s one-stop shop for all things self-publishing and writing. That being said, being so dedicated to assisting aspiring authors in writing a book, DiggyPOD’s blog seeks to answer any and all questions about the writing process and book publishing.

One question you may be asking yourself is this: when writing fiction, what is a good balance of dialogue and narration? Let’s get to it.

The basics of writing a book, dialogue, and narration

If you’re choosing to write a novel, chances are you’ll rely heavily on character interactions and “spoken” words. Nonfiction books and memoir, too, can use dialogue, but there tends to be more dialogue in fiction. Any time a character talks, you’ll use dialogue in your story. Character interactions are so crucial in writing a book. Conversations and dialogue humanize your characters and move the story along well. So much can be revealed in dialogue, and it’s a good chance for your characters to be “heard” and for their personalities to come out. This is especially important when developing your protagonist, since they’re the most important character. For a breakdown on how to write compelling dialogue, read this DiggyPOD blog from our June Writing Series.

Narration is the background story. Simply put, it’s anything that isn’t in quotation marks. This is where the story is told. Setting and background are established through narration, as is the plot progression and story structure. Details about characters that aren’t spoken are revealed in narration. Narration specifically refers to the process of telling the story, and narrator types depend entirely on the author. For more information about different narration styles, read this DiggyPOD blog.

Finding a good balance between dialogue and narration

Obviously your entire novel shouldn’t be entirely one or the other. When writing your book, you need to decide how you want to divide your time. This will test your writing skills. Good storytelling has a balance between narration and dialogue. Allow yourself ample room for characters to speak – readers love “listening” in on these moments. But there also needs to be setting, background detail, and exposition. This is where narration is crucial.

Too much dialogue can get confusing. If you’re constantly writing “he said” and “she said,” your readers may lose track of who is actually speaking. It can go too quickly. Dialogue moves fast, especially if you capture realistic speech (i.e., allowing your characters to speak in fragments, little snippets, and incomplete sentences). Narration breaks this up, allows more details that only the narrator knows to be revealed.

One the other hand, if you don’t have enough dialogue, the story will drone on. Long paragraph after long paragraph of exposition and detail can drain the reader. You’ll lose them. Dialogue, in turn, can break up narration by allowing the characters to come to life. Simple descriptions of actions, thought, and detail can become monotonous after awhile.

Let characters talk in every chapter. It doesn’t need to be long, drawn out conversations. Simple exchanges will suffice and give the reader some action to be a part of.

Looking for next steps in self-publishing your novel?

Already planned out your novel and written all the narration and dialogue there can be? Here are some helpful resources full of tips for writing a book: