The Obsolete Narrative Devices Support Group

Embed from Getty Images

Lights come up slowly to full fluorescence on a room, drab and industrial in décor, one wall cracked in several places. Empty chairs are arranged in an uneven circle: after a moment, figures drift in and take their seats. Last to arrive is the THERAPIST, clad head to toe in black, carrying a small clipboard and sporting the sort of smile which makes small children fear what’s good for them.

THERAPIST: Hello everybody! I’d like to start today’s session with—

A thin, nervous figure puts up his hand, clearing his throat repeatedly.

OPENING TITLE SEQUENCE: Excuse me? Please? Begging your pardon?

THERAPIST: [sighing] Yes, Opening Title Sequence?

OPENING TITLE SEQUENCE: [clearing throat weakly once again] It’s just that I usually start the meeting—

THERAPIST: Yes, yes, I know. But you must understand: it’s not actually helping you, to keep doing this. As I’ve said before, you really need to find another way, if you’re going to become relevant again, yeah?

OPENING TITLE SEQUENCE: Next week. I’ll do something different next week.

THERAPIST: All right. Go on, then. But this is the last time, mind. Technically, you shouldn’t even be here. This is a support group for literary narrative devices, not TV.

OPENING TITLE SEQUENCE: [singing ecstatically to sudden cheesy music] Duh-doo-doo-doo-doo / bum-de-dum / be-bop-a-loo-la / it’s the narrative device support group show / dum-de-dum-dum-dum / we’ll tell you what you gotta know / yeah!

OMNISCIENT 3RD PERSON NARRATOR: And there’s telling, not showing, if ever I heard it.

THERAPIST: Thank you, Omniscient 3rd Person Narrator. Might I remind you this is a safe space: we do not comment on our fellow members, no matter how smart we think we are.


The Obsolete Narrative Device’s Support Group

THERAPIST: So following on from last week’s role-play, we had some homework to do, where we were to try something new, by stepping into someone else’s shoes. Who wants to go first?

A hand shoots up, closely followed by an entire body, leaping into the air in its eagerness.

THERAPIST: Yes! Prologue From The Future? You’d like to start?


EPILOGUE FOR LOOSE ENDS: Why does she always get to go first?


THERAPIST: Now, now. Be nice.

EPILOGUE FOR LOOSE ENDS: It’s not even like she’s even fully obsolete! People still use backward-looking prologues all the time!

PROLOGUE FROM THE FUTURE: Maybe that’s because I’m not super lazy and unimaginative, unlike some devices I could mention?

OMNISCIENT 3RD PERSON NARRATOR: Oh, for Christ’s sake. Who writes this stuff?

THERAPIST: Enough! Prologue From The Future, please continue.

PROLOGUE FROM THE FUTURE: So what I did was, I decided to step into the shoes of an Unreliable Narrator…

Everyone groans.

CONTINUOUS PAST TENSE: I was wondering who was going to hop on the Unreliable Narrator bandwagon this week.

OMNISCIENT 3RD PERSON NARRATOR: They may be flavour of the month, but it’ll never last.

CONTINUOUS PAST TENSE: I was thinking that myself.

PROLOGUE FROM THE FUTURE: [clears throat before reading loudly and smugly] ‘If only I’d told the truth about the man with the gun, Ermintrude would not have died. But that is assuming that the truth is more than just one version of events, and my part in this is anything but a fiction…’

Discontented murmurs break out amongst the rest of the group.

EPILOGUE FOR LOOSE ENDS: But that’s not fair! She’s still being a prologue from the future!

EPISTOLARY NOVEL: Hello! I hope you know she’s just taking liberties with the exercise and using it to bolster her own profile! Sincerely!

THERAPIST: [holding up one hand] Yes, but you can’t deny that she’s also being unreliable, right?

Further discontented murmurs ripple through the room, reluctantly acknowledging this to be true.

THERAPIST: What can we learn from this? Perhaps that in order to succeed, we must build on our own unique talents, yes? Bearing in mind that we are here to cope with changes in literary fashions, with a view to becoming relevant again?

Grudging assent sounds through the group.

THERAPIST: For instance, let’s go to you, Epistolary Novel. Whose shoes did you step into this week?

EPISTOLARY NOVEL: Dear me. Well, this week, I’m going to be…

Suddenly, GRATUITOUS SUSPENSE leaps up from his seat and starts screaming and flicking the lights on and off.

THERAPIST: Gratuitous Suspense, sit DOWN!

EPISTOLARY NOVEL: …a text message!

CONTINUOUS PAST TENSE: [snorting with derision] Like nobody saw THAT coming.

EPISTOLARY NOVEL: But that’s not all! I have a whole section from a Facebook comment thread too!

EPILOGUE FOR LOOSE ENDS: I thought I’d try being a red herring. Do I get extra credit?

Suddenly a crash sounds: the room shakes and heaves, and the entire group is showered in dust.

THERAPIST: Oh my God! The wall!

OMNISCIENT 3RD PERSON NARRATOR: What’s the problem? Three of them look fine.

THERAPIST: But the one behind you has fallen to pieces! Who broke the fourth wall?

ONE-LINER BOB stands, and looks directly at you. A drumroll sounds, and he says…

ONE-LINER BOB: Badum-tish!

Embed from Getty Images

  43 comments for “The Obsolete Narrative Devices Support Group

  1. August 8, 2017 at 7:40 am

    I was hiding under the invisible table. And I’m not supposed to be reading (never mind commenting) on posts because I’m … um … writing (?).

    Liked by 3 people

  2. August 8, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Tara, that’s fantastric!!!
    Especially because there’s truth in it. These are indeed obsolete writing techiques. But I’d like to tell something to them if you allow.
    Guys, it’s true, writiers today avoid you, but I know that there’s good in every single one of you and there are writers who will recognise it and will give you a chance in spite of whever writing manuals say. So be always prepared to be taken in the limelight and don’t waste that precious time. I know that give the chance, you can do wonder. So stop moaning and start getting ready!

    Liked by 5 people

    • August 8, 2017 at 11:04 am

      All support to the support group gratefully accepted, Sarah 😉


  3. August 8, 2017 at 8:25 am

    Fourth walls are there to be knocked down. So get out of the way and let me speak directly to the readers.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. August 8, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Reblogged this on anita dawes and jaye marie.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. August 8, 2017 at 9:01 am

    A brilliant, and hilarious definition of the use of dialogue…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. August 8, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Brilliant very clever – forgotten half those grammar handles!

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 8, 2017 at 11:06 am

      They knew that, Lucinda, which is how they ended up in group therapy in the first place 😛


  7. August 8, 2017 at 10:02 am

    Love it! I just wonder whether Smartarse Footnotes* was there?

    * No, he was ill (technically hungover after an all night session with Author’s Notes).

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 8, 2017 at 11:09 am

      Haha! I can imagine the session… boredom mixed with moments of extreme pedantry. I reckoned there would be many devices left out of this piece. I had to leave something to my genius comment section, after all.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. August 8, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Hilarious! Chronology should have been present at the meeting, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. August 8, 2017 at 11:19 am

    To do this poorly would take a lot of work. Doing it so well… honestly, how long did it take you to cook this recipe? It’s fabulous.
    And there must be a sequel! Let Prologue blurt out that the Therapist is really only working for Big Pub, who are paying him to keep the old tropes running as long as possible to avoid having to, you know, read somebody new. THEN we’ll see some action!

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 8, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      I don’t know where this stuff comes from, Will… in this case the title was rattling around my head for about a week, so I may have subliminally formed the rest of the post before I sat down to write it, I really don’t know. I’m the last to be told anything by my brain. You can take your chances asking it about the sequel, but I find it a very temperamental beast, I really do. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  10. August 8, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    PLOT-REVEALING MAP (grinning smugly): And you all wanted to know why I needed to include the walls of this room… and number them. Ta-da.

    (I love Plot-Revealing Map; I could stare at her all day. I often find myself flicking back and checking her out and making little noises like “oh!” and “hmph!” and “huh?”)

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 8, 2017 at 6:08 pm

      Ah, the Plot-Revealing Map. A denizen of the fantasy genre, perhaps? There has been a dearth of them lately. Perhaps it’s because the psychological thrillers have them holed up in a room somewhere and are torturing them with matches?

      Liked by 1 person

  11. August 8, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    I wonder what knocked over that wall. Was it writer’s block?

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 8, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      BOOM! I don’t know, Nick. With the amount of Unreliable Narrators around, I’m starting to wonder if it existed in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. August 8, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Reblogged this on Jan Hawke INKorporated and commented:
    OMG!!!!!! :-O Tara’s gone and exceeded all expectations and cracked out all the ‘love-to-hate’ barrel-full of cheesey literary devices known to humankind. Keep reading – I dares ya! 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 8, 2017 at 7:31 pm

      Thanks for the re-blog, Jan. Any bit of exposure these redundant guys can get is appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. August 8, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Evil Tara. May the books of authors past (and half my students who don’t know better) rise to bop you on your show-not-tell. (New slang that I may just trademark.) I shall be haunted by passe (where’s the damned accent) plot devices tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 9, 2017 at 11:22 am

      I aim to disquiet, Melodie. Being the cause of uneasy dreams is just a bonus. 😉


  14. Nya Rawlyns
    August 9, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Reblogged this on Love's Last Refuge and commented:
    A wee bit of fun for your morning!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. crafty scribbles1976
    August 9, 2017 at 10:23 pm


    Liked by 1 person

  16. August 10, 2017 at 10:42 am

    I’ve just read a book that began with a Prologue from the Future. And I really enjoyed it. How cool! I thought. How tension-inducingly, page-turneringly effective this narrative device is! Oh yeah!
    I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I decided I simply had to use one in my next piece of fiction.
    And then I read your post.
    I was devastated to discover that the Prologue from the Future is, in fact, an escapee from the Obsolete Narrative Devices Support Group.
    I’d still like to try writing one, though.
    Can I? Please? Please? Please?

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 11, 2017 at 9:35 am

      I was a little cruel to the Prologue From The Future, Sue. She’s not really obsolete, just a tad unfashionable. And as those of us who have reached some semblance of maturity know, unfashionability can be the cornerstone of a contented existence. Go forth and Prologue. Nourish your futuristic reminiscence. Your story will thank you.


  17. Ali Isaac
    August 10, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    I don’t think cheesy One Liner should have been at that meeting… they never go out of fashion. Although I’m surprised I didn’t see that one coming! 😂 I notice Descriptive Narrative didn’t show up. If she had, everyone would have noticed the state of the 4th wall.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 11, 2017 at 9:37 am

      Descriptive Narrative had a fistfight with Omniscient Third Person Narrator outside the therapy room and came off worst, I’m afraid. Always seems to come off worst in what I’m writing. 3 pages into a piece sometimes and I barely notice I haven’t even said where we are 😉


      • Ali Isaac
        August 11, 2017 at 10:09 am

        Hmmm… well you’re in good company then. Poor DN though… I always quite liked her.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. August 10, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    I used to love the Prologue on the Streets of San Francisco. Leslie Nielsen appeared as a bad guy in numerous episodes. Could never take him seriously after Police Squad.
    You are nuts by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 11, 2017 at 9:40 am

      That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me, Conor. And that includes the guy who said to me once “Excuse me Sir, is this seat taken?”


      Liked by 1 person

  19. August 12, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    I had to look up epistolary novel and still can’t pronounce. But I have learned what continuous past tense means. I wish they’d taught us proper English at school.

    I’m going to invent a new narrative device and then trash it. See how much confusion it causes. Futureproof conditional, something like that….

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 12, 2017 at 7:40 pm

      ‘I had to look up epistolary novel and still can’t pronounce.’

      Can’t bloody write it either. …’still can’t pronounce it.’

      Liked by 1 person

      • August 13, 2017 at 6:51 pm

        I think there’s a gap in the market for new tenses as well as narrative devices, Chris… after all, nobody’s able to grammar any more, so we might as well make it up, and then tell everyone they’re doing it wrong. We can start by saying that you should never finish a sentence with the word “it”.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. August 13, 2017 at 1:55 am

    Tara, if I get you right–an almost impossible thing to do, it’s okay to do what I insist upon doing anyway—write in my style, not copying antiquated idioms or following genre writing rules that are all alike except for name changes.Here’s to knocking down literary walls–only the bad ones and bringing new life to books. Although I don’t know what the last word you used means. Okay so I am a tad (who says tad?) antiquated. wwworking on that:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 13, 2017 at 6:54 pm

      I live in constant terror that anybody will take what I say here seriously, Micki! I’m not sure I had any real intent here other than to make a joke. My last word can be filed under “terrible punchlines which miraculously nobody has killed me for”. Certain narrative devices certainly go out of fashion, but I’m not convinced there’s any good reason for it, other than that other devices become fiercely popular and push everything else aside.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Carl Rackman
    August 14, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Reblogged this on Carl Rackman and commented:
    Tara Sparling there, making me laugh out loud and look up what ‘epistolary novel’ means.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 14, 2017 at 11:54 am

      I can only hope that once you found out what it was, you didn’t want me to suffer for it, Carl!


  22. Liberty on the Lighter Side - (LoLS)
    August 15, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    I think everyone above has already said what I wanted to say, you are just so clever, who needs to go to university when your blog is still alive? I too had to look up the definition of EPISTOLARY NOVEL. Seems my kids adore them (current Wimpy Kid series) as I did the Adrian Mole books, the trends may be over done and redone but evidently still loved by many. Your bunch in therapy may be boring but at least a few of them are lovable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 16, 2017 at 1:10 pm

      Ah now. How am I supposed to be Irish when you give me compliments like that?! I may have to write a whole epistolary novel to protest my own mediocrity. I do quite like all those devices myself, though. Having said that I’ve never claimed to be fashionable.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: