Look at the passage below and decide if the female character is worried about the mouse or not.
“It is large, so a house mouse, not the country cousin field type which are more petite, she knows that much, and although she doesn’t like it, shudders at the thought of it running over her sleeping body, doesn’t care to share her home with it, or pick it up, or touch it, or even have it sitting this close, and is very aware of the fact that it is bound to mean them, she is heartily relieved that it’s not a rat and therefore isn’t overly concerned.” [Tony Dew]
Answer: despite the assertion by the main character that she ‘isn’t overly concerned’, the reader can tell that she is actually very concerned about the mouse!
But how can the reader tell that? Well, it’s something to do with how the passage has been written. The passage represents the character’s internal thoughts. The passage is a single, long sentence, almost a ‘stream of consciousness’. The short phrases scurry this way and that way, like the actual mouse that she is watching. Therefore, the mouse is filling and defining the character of her thoughts – she is fixated on it. She is extremely concerned by it.
When the style of the writing matches what is happening in the plot or scene (and shows us the character’s emotions, rather than telling us those emotions), it is known as the narrative device of ‘enactment’. It is a hallmark of superior or literary prose. Why is it? Well, because it makes reading a delight – our ‘reading between the lines’ has been enabled and we become privy to secrets. It gives the act of reading an extra reward.
Look at the opening lines below. Choose one of them and try to write a short passage starting with that line. Make sure the style in which you write ‘enacts’ the nature of the character or the scene in which they find themselves.
- There was something unfinished about him, something… interrupted.
- ‘Rubbish!’ came her firecracker voice, making the audience jump.
- Here was a slow and methodical man, a man who believed in being sure of the wherefores and wherebys before approaching anything that he would term a conclusion.
If you’d like me to look at how successful your writing has been in terms of enactment, please do feel free to email me (Adam): adz_d2003 @ yahoo.co.uk – deleting the two spaces either side of the @ sign.
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