Category: narrative techniques series

Narrative Techniques Series #4: Deus ex machina

Narrative Techniques Series #4: Deus ex machina

Many times we read this particular term but do you know its real meaning? We also already found the narrative technique Deus ex machina in many stories. It is an ancient Latin expression. It indicates an act of god and which literally means “god out of the machine”.

This term derives from the Greek tragedy. It concerned when a character, at the end of the narration, came on the scene to solve a situation that initially seemed very difficult to overcome, or even without a solution.

This unexpected character seemed a God able to suddenly solved the problem, who came onto the stage by a crane (called in Greek “mechané“). From here, the expression Deus ex machina.

In our articles about the narrative techniques series we also find the Deus ex machina. Nowadays, the narrative techniques Deus ex machina is used in the cinema and in many novels.

How to use the narrative techniques of Deus ex machina?

The narrative technique Deus ex machina does not only concerns a character but also any solution and event that solve a problem and happen without an effective explanation.

To use this kind of narrative technique we must not anticipate the entry of a particular character or the occurrence of a situation.

We can speak about the narrative technique Deus ex machina when something happens unexpectedly.

Is it better to use or to avoid the Deus ex machina narrative technique?

The audience does not love so much this technique. Frequently people find frustrating to not really understand why a particular solution is adopted to a situation.

Actually, it seems to be a real scam against the reader. Solving a situation with a Deus ex machina means breaking the credibility of the story. It is like to declare that the fears about the fate of the protagonist do not matter. In fact, an external intervention can solve everything.

At this point, the reader may ask himself some questions. If the writer uses the Deus ex machina narrative technique at the end of the story, why he doesn’t use it at the beginning?

What is the real point of telling this story?

Besides this, the Deus ex machina narrative technique diminishes the role of the protagonist and, often, of his allies. He is not the one who actively intervenes and saves the day but passively witnesses an external resolution. His journey, struggle, and experience are useless because he is not the one who will define events. Instead, it is in the moments of greatest difficulty that the protagonist should shine.

In conclusion, therefore, one must avoid running into the Deus ex machina. Instead, we must seek a resolution consistent with the plot and consequential to the narration; even better if the protagonist himself intervenes.

Use bibisco’s novel writing software to create your narration

The use of the narrative technique Deus ex machina depends on the writer’s taste and the aspect we want to give to the narrative.
With bibisco and its innovative writing and planning software, you can decide on the best option for your story.

Narrative Techniques Series: #4 Deus ex machina - 
bibisco's architecture of the novel & narrative strands -
bibisco blog | useful resources by your novel writing software
bibisco’s architecture of the novel & narrative strands

The narrative technique of Deus ex machina: some examples

One of the greatest directors to love and use this technique is Woody Allen. He did it in Match Point, as well as in his older film Mighty Aphrodite. In fact, without making spoilers, a character arrives by helicopter to resolve the situation.

In the third movie of The Return of the King of the Lord of the Rings series, the director uses this narrative technique. For example, in one scene in Minas Tirith, the ghosts recovered from the mountain suddenly appear and make a killing.

Sometimes this narrative technique is less visible, being less annoying. In other cases, it is more evident.

Moreover, in a second scene in Mordor, a convenient landslide opens up a chasm beneath the orcs and resolved the conflict.

Conclusions

The narrative technique Deus ex machina does not necessarily have to be a real go. It could be a man, an object. It could also be a strange case that happens to fix a narrative knot that cannot be unraveled in any other way.

The Deus ex machina remains an improbable expedient. Despite this, literature and theater continually use events that in real life would be practically impossible.

The Deus ex machina narrative technique certainly gives a value of unpredictability and mystery. In some cases might intrigue the reader, or the spectator, to the point that they remember the story they witnessed for a long time.

With the next post, we’ll move on into this wonderful journey of the narrative techniques series!

Narrative Techniques Series: #3 Backstory

Narrative Techniques Series: #3 Backstory

Do you have ever heard about this third Narrative Technique, the Backstory? I am sure you do.

Think about the sentence which often begins with a “…years ago”. This sentence concerns the way to give more information about the past of a character or a story. The Backstory technique aims to provide more intensity and depth to a narration. There are many movies and books which include this proper narrative technique: the Backstory.

Using the narrative technique of the Backstory, you can choose to tell a story without any breaks or use this technique to make the whole story more vivid and intense.

The Narrative Technique of the Backstory: what is it?

This narrative technique is kind of a window on the past of our characters. With the background technique, the reader can better understand the behavior of the protagonist or others. The narrative technique of the Backstory gives the chance to travel through past experiences and life stories and then keep going on the current narration with a different perspective about a character.

Every one of us in our life, after all, has passed difficulties or barriers that change the path and attitude to face things. The past has a significant role in everyone’s life. It is the place where we come from and our story. That is the reason why the narrative technique of the backstory is so important and valuable.

Understand a character also mean knowing his/her fears, even the deepest ones.

“We do not have to be ashamed of what we are. As sentient beings, we have wonderful backgrounds. These backgrounds may not be particularly enlightened or peaceful, or intelligent. Nevertheless, we have soil good enough to cultivate; we can plant anything in it.”

Chögyam Trungpa

How to use the Backstory Narrative Technique?

There are different ways to use this technique.

The first one is the flashback. It has to be a short but intense break in the narration and used at different times during the story. In general, the public likes flashbacks because it makes the story more dynamic by creating an extra level of narration. Therefore, usually, it hides some unforeseen plot twist.

The second one is the prologue. It is like a flashback but only introduces at the beginning of a story. Here we don’t have the same surprise effect as in the flashback technique, but the reader can learn a lot of information about the characters and the story itself.

The digression is another helpful instrument to realize the narrative technique of the backstory. In the digression, the writer makes a little break to explain better a scene, an environment, or a particular character’s attitude.

Finally, you can resort to the first-person narrative or the third-person one.

With the first-person narration, the writer tells a story, an event, speaking about the past. In this case, the writer is personally involved in the narration and uses his voice to give more details. Using the second option, the third-person narrative, the writer chooses a third person, outside the story, who can narrate and know everything.

Write your story with the narrative technique of the Backstory and bibisco novel writing software

Writing your novel is quite a complicated task. Fortunately, bibisco has some valuable tools which will make it easier for you to create your story and get to know your characters in depth.

Narrative Techniques Series: #3 backstory - 
bibisco's main character section -
bibisco blog | useful resources by your novel writing software
bibisco’s main character section

Conclusions

Why deciding to use the backstory narrative technique in your novel? Because this technique can add meaning to your story and enrich it with details.

The reader could get their idea about the characters and the narration by reading more information given through the backstory narrative technique. It also can be a useful element to make the narration more vivid and amaze your public.

Narrative Techniques Series: #2 Show don’t tell

Narrative Techniques Series: #2 Show don’t tell

Let’s move on to our narrative techniques series. In this second article of the narrative techniques series, we write about a second important narrative technique that is the Show don’t tell. This is not just advice from writers to writers but an accurate technique fundamental to use in your novel.

How many books have you read in which there is extensive use of descriptions, monologues, and explanations at the expense of dialogues between characters and some action in the plot? This narrative technique, “Show don’t tell” teaches the writer to use more effort and dialogues to describe and introduce a character because this makes the novel more interesting.

The function of the “show don’t tell” narrative technique

What is the main purpose of writing a novel? It is to tell a story that can thrill the reader and in which characters he can identify with. In order to do that you can use this particular technique that shows action instead of explaining it. You can develop your narration by using more actions, words, thoughts, senses and feelings rather than description and summarization.

Let me make an example. If you have to describe a very unpleasant character, you have two possibilities.

You can do it with a description. You can write that “he is a very unpleasant person, with all his friends and colleagues and that he has a very bad attitude with everyone”. Otherwise, you can use a dialogue between this unpleasant character and a colleague for example. In this way you just show how unsympathetic he is. Furthermore, you have another advantage: the reader may draw its own conclusions about this character without your explicit description. He may feel not to be in empathy with him, or on the contrary, to really love his straightforward attitude.

One of the first supporters of the narrative technique “Show don’t tell” was George Campbell. He was a theologian, philosopher, and academic of rhetoric. He believed that to show the feelings was more effective than to describe them.

Rules of this narrative technique

There are some important rules to follow to wisely use this technique. Firstly, you have to write a deep description of what is going on and not only a generic tale. The “Show don’t tell” technique described in this series works well if you use many details that help the reader to dress the part.

Secondly, develop the scene action by action. If you make the characters interact with each other step by step, it will be easier for the reader to develop the images in his head during the narration.

Lastly, if you simply describe an action and opt for a more conservative technique of writing you can use indirect dialogues. On the contrary, by using this narrative technique object of this article, you have to use direct dialogues. Direct speech has a fundamental role in immersive writing.

A novel based on this narrative technique is more active, made of actions. It contains more active verbs rather than passive ones, and it has a lot of moving images. All that dynamism has a positive and great impact on the reader.

“Actions speak louder than words”

Michel de Montaigne

Create your novel with bibisco by using the “Show don’t tell” narrative technique

Do you know that bibisco owns very professional and innovative novel writing software? And it can help you with your narration. With this planning software, you can organize the plot of your novel and decide how to use the different narrative techniques of our series. Here below some examples of what you can do.

Narrative Techniques Series: #2 Show don't tell - 
bibisco's architecture of the novel & narrative strands -
bibisco blog | useful resources by your novel writing software
bibisco’s architecture of the novel & narrative strands

Conclusions

Show don’t tell or tell? It depends on your taste and your way of writing. It also depends on the plot of your novel. The only certainty is that a book only with descriptions and no actions can exist.

The reader needs to follow the narration and build a personal image of the characters, the situations, and the story itself. To feel empathy with a character is one of the secrets of a great novel.

In conclusion, this technique can be applied to some parts of the narration you decide to be relevant. The important thing is to give the reader the possibility to draw conclusions by himself without any other conditioning. Here we conclude this second article but don’t forget to read the other ones about the narrative techniques series!

Narrative Techniques Series: #1 Chekhov’s gun

Narrative Techniques Series: #1 Chekhov’s gun

If you think that a writer uses only his imagination to write a novel, without rules, you are wrong. With this post, we open a long series on narrative techniques used by writers and screenwriters of films. Let us begin this narrative techniques series with the first one: Chekhov’s gun.

What are narrative and expressive techniques?

They are pillars that give structure to the story, the characters created, and the dialogues. A writer must know how to master these dramaturgical tools in order to create a solid and compelling narrative.

All these elements must be skillfully correlated with each other in order to build the structure of the narrative. We will discover together that the elements inserted in a story are never random. On the contrary, they often have a dramaturgical function, and that they belong to a defined narrative technique.

What is the narrative technique of Chekhov’s gun?

Chekhov’s gun is a fundamental dramatic principle in a story. It is an element that initially seems negligible and insignificant. This one, only in the course of the narration turns out to be very important. This element can take any form. It can be an object, a phrase, a character, or an image.

Very often it is something you can see only for a few seconds, without too much importance. The reader or viewer is aware of the existence of that element but does not know that it is fundamental. Try to think of a thriller movie. You may notice, just for a few seconds, inside an open drawer and then immediately closed, a gun. That gun could be the decisive object of the story.

The Chekhov’s gun: the Anticipation technique

«If a gun appears in a novel, it must shoot”

Anton Ĉechov

This narrative technique is also called “Anticipation” thanks to its function. In fact, it anticipates how a story will turn out. Chekhov’s gun creates a final twist, also called “Overturn“. This moment in addition to leaving the reader stunned will lead him to investigate the unsuspected nature of the culprit. Because where there is a Chekhov gun there is always a culprit.

The dramaturgical principle of Chekhov’s pistol serves to remind the writer of two important rules. The first concerns the need to insert something at the beginning of the story, useful in concluding it. The second, in the same way, reminds the writer not to insert superfluous elements.

They could confuse the ideas of the reader/viewer too much. If an element is not necessary for the story, you can easily delete it. But be careful not to confuse it with the fake superfluous element.

You can also insert this element precisely with the aim of misleading the reader or viewer. Often this narrative technique is found in thriller and detective novels. One of the first writers to appreciate this misdirection technique was Murakami. He explained that not all the elements introduced at the beginning had to find a role at the end. On the contrary, you can simply insert them on purpose to mislead the reader’s assumptions.

Use bibisco to create your novel by introducing Chekhov’s gun

Writing indeed means to owe a lot of creativity as much as technique. Thanks to bibisco and its novel planning software, you can create a structure for your story. Here you can find a whole section dedicated to creating objects like guns, magic wands, treasure maps, and much more else.

Narrative Techniques Series: #1 Chekhov's gun - 
bibisco's objects section - 
bibisco blog | useful resources by your novel writing software
bibisco’s objects section
Narrative Techniques Series: #1 Chekhov's gun - 
bibisco's object image -
bibisco blog | useful resources by your novel writing software
bibisco’s object image

With the novel writing software, you will be able to dedicate yourself to the creation of elements. For instance, you can create dialogues and characters, always having in mind the track to keep.

Conclusions

The writing of a novel or a screenplay involves creative skills. It consists largely of the writer’s imagination and very specific writing techniques. The key element is experience.

In this long new journey together we will analyze narrative techniques. Therefore, we will learn how to write and also to read a story between the lines.