Monday, March 31, 2014

Narrator vs. Character

By P.J. Regnier

Charles took a careful step toward the old, wooden door in the basement. A door he’d never seen until today. He couldn’t believe that all those years it was hidden behind the antique dresser. He reached for the ornate brass handle. An irrational fear gripped him of what lay beyond and started his hand trembling.

Hm, needs more tension. Maybe I should layer in some back story here. Charles needs motivation for his fear.

“Hello?” Charles looked around the shadowy basement. “Who’s there? And what’s that nonsense about giving me motivation?”

Oh, um, it’s the narrator. Sorry, I didn’t know you could hear me.

“Well, it’s very unnerving whoever you are,” Charles said. “Please go away.”

That’s impossible. You need me to advance your story. I was about to add a creepy little memory at age twelve when you opened an old cellar filled with snakes. Hence, your increased apprehension about opening this mystery door in your basement.

“What? That’s ridiculous. I never…Oh no, I can see it now.” Charles grimaced at the thought. “So many snakes writhing and hissing. That’s awful. Why’d you put that in my head? That’s just mean.”

Quit whining. The scene needed more tension. Do you want people to read about you or not?

“I don’t give a fig.” Charles put his hands on his hips and gave a look of defiance. “Maybe I won’t open that door at all. Maybe I’ll just sell this house and move back to London.”

Oh, that’s another thing, you’re not British anymore.

“That’s preposterous.” Charles stamped his foot. “I grew up in jolly old England.”

Sorry, not buying it. I thought after all those Harry Potter books I’d be able to master the dialogue but it’s just not flowing.


There, you see?  It sounds forced.

“Can I at least keep the accent?” Charles said. “It’s a chick magnet.”

A series of scratches came from behind the wooden door followed by a low moan.

“Whoa.” Charles took a step back. “Did you hear that?”

Of course. I added it to the story. We need to move things along. Increase the tension.

“What’s all this about tension? Like I have to be stressed out all the time or I’m not interesting? Maybe I just want to go upstairs and have some afternoon tea.”

Boring. Plus, you’re not British anymore.

“Well, I’m tired of this story.” Charles turned and marched toward the basement stairs. As he placed his foot on the bottom step, the entire staircase collapsed.

He gave an exasperated look skyward. “Oh, come on.”

Sorry, we need to move things along, create a sense of urgency. Now get back to that door. Act like you can’t resist the curiosity of what’s behind it.

“No way, I heard moaning. What kind of story is this?”

Relax, it’s a thriller not horror. I won’t dissect you.


Yes, now get on with it.

Charles frowned and walked back to the door. The old wood was split and darkened with age but the brass handle remained perfectly polished.

“That doesn’t even make sense,” Charles said.

Quiet, it’s part of the mystery. I’ll explain later.

“Is it magic? Will I be taken to another world?”

Look, it’s a long story. I have to pepper the explanation throughout the next fifty pages or it’ll be an insufferable information dump.

“But it won’t kill me, right?”

Of course not. I need you for the sequel in case I get a series out of this.

Charles nodded in hearty agreement. He was starting to feel better about this whole mystery door thing. He moved closer and rested his fingers on the brass knob. A warm sensation flowed up his arms.

Charles looked up. “Whoa, that’s the magic, right?”

Shh, I can’t say.

“Oh, right, right.” Charles took a deep breath and prepared to turn the knob. “And there’s no snakes behind this? Because I’m kinda freaked out by them now.”

Right, no snakes…yet.


Look, do you want to be in the sequel or not?

“Okay, okay.” Charles exhaled slowly, gave a confident turn of the brass knob and opened the door...


  1. L-O-V-E it, Paul. You have such a good sense of humor. You teach an important writing principle through this clever dialogue. Really well done.