(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“Order of event is the key to all narrative, because the order in which you tell the events, true or fictive, is the order in which they happen for the first time to the reader.” Philip Gerard

“I admire Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. Their philosophies of life horrify or bore me, but I think that, technically, they are both masters, especially in narration, which is the key to good novel-writing.” John Fowles

“From the standpoint of form, narrative is that which is not dialogue; everything said by the author, as opposed to the characters, is narrative (including the ‘he said’ and ‘she said in a trembling voice’ between the dialogue lines). From the standpoint of structure, however, narrative is that which is not dramatized.” Ayn Rand

“To dramatize something is to show it as if it were happening before the reader’s eyes, so that he is in the position of an observer at the scene. To narrate, by contrast, is to synopsize: you tell the reader about something which has happened, but you do not let him be a witness.” Ayn Rand

“In any fiction where the omniscient narrator uses the same language as the characters, there is a loss of tension and a lowering of tone.” Flannery O’Connor

“When you synopsize a conversation in narrative, you can quote a single sentence to feature the essence of the conversation, or to sharpen some salient point.” Ayn Rand

“And yet, the novelist must state, must tell, must narrate—what else can he do? His book is a series of assertions, nothing more. It is so, obviously, and the difference between the art of Defoe and the art of Flaubert is only in their different method of placing their statements.” Percy Lubbock

“It is the method of picture-making that enables the novelist to cover his great spaces of life and quantities of experience, so much greater than any that can be brought within the acts of a play.” Percy Lubbock

“I write entirely by smell as it were.” Flannery O’Connor

“Fiction is rendered, presented, dramatized.” Henry James

“Stowe is not what’s called a “great stylist”, but she is an absolutely first-rate storyteller. Her prose does what she wants it to and carries us right along with it.” Ursula K. Le Guin