1. Home 
  2. Introduction
  3. On Our Glossary and Taxonomy
  4.     Glossary of Terms
  5.     Taxonomies of Creative Nonfiction
  6.             Central Questions
  7.             Dramatic Design
  8.             Taxonomy of Forms
  9.             Genre and Veracity
  10.             Imagery
  11.             The Mind
  12.             Language
  13.             Narrative Energy
  14.             Narrators
  15.             Scene
  16.             Topics
  17.             Truth
  18. The Central Question Podcast
  19. Contact the Authors

Taxonomy of Narrative Energy (Chapter 8)

Narrative Energy is the reader’s engagement with the material on the page, regulated by the writer’s control over language, tension, pacing, stakes, and rhythm. Narrative energy is not created from subject matter alone, or action-packed plot lines, but through the writer’s use of language, tension, pacing, stakes, and rhythm.

Tension is trouble or conflict, and wielding tension effectively is essential for reader investment. In life, and on the page, we must push against something to see the world in a new way. Not only does tension keep our readers engaged—because two or more forces are colliding—but more critically, it’s the only way that change occurs. Without tension, we continue to move forward in the same direction and with the same perspective. 

Moment of Tension, The, is the experience that inspires the writing. It is always something that has already occurred. 

Moment of Reflection, The, is when the writer wrestles with the moment of tension to uncover the stakes.

Stakes are what stands to be lost, gained, or changed in the future, while, in contrast, tension is a kind of collision or trouble. 

Leaps help writers break from standard chronological movement by moving a narrative across time and space to focus on the most significant moments as sections of the narrative get grouped together by association rather than strict chronology. 

White Space is a pause between two sections and, if used intentionally, is rife with meaning. White space is not a blank space, or merely a visual transition. Instead, white space is a meaning maker. White space asks readers to make connections between the sections it separates, and it does it often without a transition. 

Dialectical Movement is any time a writer explores contrasting points of view, either between characters or between parts of themselves. Dialectical movement is the inquisitive mind at work and allows readers to see a situation from a variety of perspectives.