Reporting #20BooksEdinburgh – Crafting Narrative

Although the 20Books conferences are very largely about indie publishing in terms of presentation, marketing, and what’s working best at the time, there are also some sessions on timeless subjects, such as crafting excellent narrative. This presentation was given by MARC STIEGLER, who is a trad published author, but hey, the principles are the same, whatever your publication route.

You’ll probably know a lot of this (I know I did), but there’s always that little gem you’ve not thought of before, and, of course, one of the purposes of sharing, is to pass on knowledge to writers at an earlier stage of their career.

These are brief notes on items that caught my attention.


  • Narrative should be concise and punchy, unless you are crafting literary fiction.
  • Use the least number of words to get an idea over


  • Always check for, and remove, redundant words, e.g. HE NODDED HIS HEAD
  • Consider that you may wish to produce an audio book – think how the words/phrases/sentences sound
  • Fewer words is good for the cost of producing an audio book
  • More words is better for KU pay outs, but avoid being wordy just to bump up your word count – you may lose readers this way


  • Every scene must have a purpose
  • Start with a bang
  • Raise (or release) tension, and/or humour
  • End with a punchline: laugh, cry, question, or cheer – lure the reader forward

The Integrated Narrative


  • First describe character via action/setting – what they are doing, carrying, wearing, how they interact with others or their surroundings etc. (this pays benefits over and over, as character appears again and again)
  • Then setting – this informs the action, where it takes place, what sort of action is possible (good for at least one whole scene, often more)
  • Then action – use the characters and setting to drive the narrative (one unique sequence)

The oft quoted, ‘show, don’t tell’, endows richer story weaving, and has the bonus of adding words (great for KU!)


Getting characters to sound individual is not just a function of accents or catch words – USE introductory actions before speech so readers can impose their own voice onto the character now they know who it is.

And there you have it.

Please feel free to add anything you want to supplement my quick run through of a vast topic.



  1. Narrative is always a struggle. It can become boring if I’m not careful. Good tips here, Deborah.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always something new to learn, isn’t there? And I do love to improve – I think it’s my competitive and perfectionist nature!


  2. […] post on Writer’s Tips and that led me to the generous Deborah Jay, who shares her personal writing wisdom and knowledge gained from different writer’s conferences. Deborah wrote about […]

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks again Deb. Love these mini shares of your takes on 20Books. Much appreciated. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so pleased to have somewhere to share them – it really helps me digest the info too, and keeps it in a place where I know I can find it, instead of tucked away with all the other paper notes from years gone by!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly!!! 🙂 That’s why I love Evernote for saving things – so easy to find and access. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh I tried that, and didn’t get on with it! I guess we do have some differences after all 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Lol, really? Where do you save all your bookmarked files?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I keep Word files with appropriate headings, like ‘Amazon Ads’, or ‘Image manipulation tools’ and just save the links there.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Oh, interesting. That works! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Now that I’m making an audiobook, I am noticing the differences in narration, primarily that in audio, there aren’t the visual paragraph breaks that help indicate a change in speaker. Writing tight prose without destroying the narration voice is another challenge that makes this craft so tricky. Thanks for sharing, Deborah. These are great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy people are finding these reports useful – you never know who they will resonate with when you publish them 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The older I get, the more I realize I don’t know much. Lol. More to learn.

        Liked by 1 person

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