Narrative Voice, Point of View, and Dialogue

Walter Mosley

Lesson time 12:21 min

Every story has multiple sides. Learn the various narrative voices, what is best for your story, and the importance of dialogue.

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Topics include: Narrative Voices in Walter’s Work · Dialogue · Dialogue Is a Tool for Character Revelation · Dialogue Is the Basket to Hold Your Story


[MUSIC PLAYING] - When you write a novel, a novel is told from a certain point of view. A certain voice is telling you the novel. Without that, it's not a novel. It's not a story. Because stories-- they originate on street corners. People say, man, did you hear what happened with Joe and his prize pig? And I want to know about Joe and his prize pig. And so they tell me the story. Well, who's telling me the story? Pete is telling me this story, and I'm listening to the story. You have to decide who's telling your story, who's telling your novel. And that's a narrative voice. There's all kinds of narrative voices, and there are all kinds of subsets of narrative voices. There's the first-person narrative, where there is a living human being telling you the story that happened in her experience, from her eyes and ears and mind. There's the second person narrative, which is hardly ever used in novels, often used in how-to books and poetry, which is, somebody is saying, you walk into the door. You pick up the hat from the floor. You see the blood on the floor. It makes you telling the story, but I'm telling you that you're telling the story. It doesn't work very well in fiction. Then there's the third-person narrative. That's a person who's sitting on the shoulder of a character, who sees everything that that character sees. They're not that character, so they don't have the emotional responses that the character has. But they see it, and they explain it. And every once in a, while they have a little insight into what that person is thinking. Third-person narrative's very good because it feels objective, which is good for it-- we're seeing things happen, and we can make our own minds about how they feel-- but also because it's from more than one point of view. A third-person narrative can-- I can be talking to you, and then you leave the room, and my narrator jumps off my shoulder and jumps onto your shoulder and follows you to another room. So I can see it from many different points of view, if I'm writing a novel with very many different characters who are very different kinds of characters, and I need to see what they're experiencing. And then there's the universal narrator, which can be translated to God, and God knows everything. God knows what Joe is doing and what Joe is thinking and what Sarah over here is doing and thinking about him talking. He also knows about the flies that are buzzing around the top of one of their heads, and also, there's a fish swimming around in an underground lake on Mars somewhere. This character knows everything. It seems like a great way to write a novel, because then you can tell them everything you want, but it's not very convincing unless your voice is very, very, very, very sophisticated. [MUSIC PLAYING] I chose first-person narrative for Easy, because it felt good to me. It felt like, being inside Easy's life, I was inside the life of a whole community, because he in a way repres...

About the Instructor

Walter Mosley, bestselling author and recipient of the National Book Award’s Lifetime Achievement Medal, has written more than 60 books over his 30-year career and is celebrated for fiction that addresses our culture’s racial divides. Now he’s sharing the elements of storytelling that have helped him along the way. Learn how to choose the right words, structure, genre, and characters to create the novel that’s in you.

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Walter Mosley

In his MasterClass, Walter Mosley teaches you how to rethink genres and the “rules” of fiction and how to approach writing your own novel.

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