Madison’s Garden Expo houses hundreds of people, from horticulturists hungry for spring to bemused guys seeking valentine gifts. Attractions range from copper-covered gingko leaf earrings to gigantic black and orange diesel tractors. It’s easy to get lost in the possibilities, especially if it’s your first time in this world.
Even if you’re writing a sequel, it’s still your reader’s first time with these characters at this moment. Because it’s new, they can easily get lost, and it’s your job to help. Maybe they’d like a map?
But unless you’re creating a historical or fantastical world, wandering feels more fun than reading a map. Wouldn’t some sort of guide be more helpful? So you can make your way through this new world?
No matter what point of view you choose, your narrator is a guide. A charming and illuminating one. Your narrator supplies running commentary on the landscape, whether it’s a garden show, space station, or bath in Pompeii just before everything erupts.
· Don’t let your narrator reveal too much. Good guides let folks discover things on their own.
· Do have your narrator foreshadow what’s significant.
You can also guide readers through choice and arrangement of details. While this can be trickier, it can be even more satisfying, especially for those who prefer to read more actively than passively.
· Don’t expect readers to connect all the dots on their own. To visualize your map, they need hints that are neither obvious nor obscure.
· Do provide clues that feel organic. Accomplishing this in your first draft is quite difficult. Much easier to set up what you’ll need after you’ve written “the end.”
Either way, provide focus rather than expecting readers to navigate without assistance. That separates fiction from reality. Good novels encourage exploration without confusion or overstimulation. Using the details, narrator, or both, supply a map for the world of your novel.
Tip: Provide just enough guidance so readers don’t get lost.