Be aware of which dramatic mode you’re using

When writing fiction, the tale tends to shift in the way the author tells the story. The method or approach used is called a mode. Being aware of which modes are available or that you’re using can help you determine how to best construct and revise your story.

While literary critics going as far back as Aristotle defined modes, modern Western literature tends to utilize three major modes:
• Dramatic – These scenes are action-oriented. This does not necessarily mean a fight, battle or chase but that the characters are moving forward with obtaining their goals. In short, any scene that shows rather than tells is dramatic.
• Narration – These scenes are summarization-oriented. They provide information to the reader or a character in the story that allows future dramatic action to occur. Any scene that tells rather than shows is narration. In general, such exposition is eschewed in storytelling. Sometimes this also is known as summary narration or dramatic narrative.
• Introspection – Sometimes a character’s thoughts need to be conveyed as he thinks over his motivations and decides what action to take. This sometimes is referred to as internal dialogue, interior monologue, or self-talk.

Of course, as with any artistic effort, these modes are not so cut-and-dry. A half-scene, for example, blends the dramatic and narration modes. That’s because not all tales, especially those of various genres such as science fiction, romance and mysteries, need to do a little telling lest the work become too long to read. Arguably, the better written the half-scene, the greater it leans toward action rather than summary, meaning that is show more than tells.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.