In a story where there is

  1. only one character

  2. doesn't talk to anyone

  3. don't know where he is

  4. and is narrating his story

2 Answers 2


Everyday scenes: I think not describing the narrator's environment is a valid option. For example, I never describe environments that are perfectly natural and well-known to my narrator, since my narrator does not have the slightest motivation to talk or even think about them. You do not leave your house in the morning and actively notice what your street looks like. You've seen this street every morning for years - no need to pay special attention to it. (Unless it is covered in toads.) If, on the other hand, your narrator has reasons to take notice of his environment, he will think and talk about it. In this case, the reader is automatically informed about it.

An aside: Feelings. I disagree with Lauren here. Although description is what ultimately reveals a character, I sincerely believe that it is not necessarily the narrator that describes his or her feelings. On the contrary, I try to avoid these "internal monologues" at all costs, since they are usually tedious to read:

"I feel sad. Would a cup of coffee cheer me up? No it wouldn't. Or would it? I can't decide."

Unless you have a terribly introvert character, feelings usually manifest themselves in actions. In my opinion it is enough to record these feelings-driven actions. Readers are smart enough to figure out which inner struggles cause the actions:

The living room was damp and the heater silent, dawn spat long shadows into the room. Rebecca sat on the couch and stared into the twiglight. In front of her, a cup of coffee sat on the living room table. It had stopped steaming, how long ago? Rebecca couldn't tell. She curled up on the couch and buried her face in the cold cushions.

  • I was responding to the comment the OP left on my post: "The narrator is describing how he is feeling." And if the narrator isn't telling you anything about where he is, or what he's feeling, then what is he talking about? Dec 1, 2015 at 22:58
  • Thanks for the reply Filip. @LaurenIpsum - If the character doesn't know where he is, it may be more natural to him to describe what he doesn't see rather than what he sees. Dec 2, 2015 at 5:10

If the character is narrating his story to the reader, then he's speaking to the reader, so that problem is solved.

If he doesn't know where he is, then he has to figure it out from what he can take in through his senses, which he's going to describe to the reader.

I woke up slowly. It was dark, and cold — a lot colder than the last time I remembered being awake. My bad shoulder burned with strain. I tried to move my arms, but I quickly realized there was a rope or cord tying my hands behind my back. I was going to be in hell come the morning. I took a deep breath to clear my head, and I got freshly-cut pine — and the incongruous but unmistakable scent of popcorn. Popcorn? Outside? At night? What's going on out there? I strained my ears, still unable to see, and could faintly make out excited voices, including a few children. Bonfire Night. It's Bonfire Night. They're here to see the Guy burn.

So by the character describing what he can observe, you can start to give your reader details, and the character and reader should figure things out more or less together.

  • Thanks for your reply. Narrater doesn't want to describe the environment to user in anyway, is just narrating how he is feeling. But I still want to put the reader in his shoes so that reader feels the same thing. Dec 1, 2015 at 11:18
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    @gurvinder372 Well, then you're hamstringing yourself with your own givens. If your sole character is speaking and doesn't want to tell the reader about the environment, then your reader will not learn about the environment, full stop. The reader only knows what's on the page. If you want the reader to know the character's feelings, then the character has to describe his feelings. But that's not what your question asked. Dec 1, 2015 at 13:09
  • I see your point, but these are the givens/challenges I have and I need to figure how not to alienate/bore the reader. But what if the character/narrator is at a place which he can't describe or he doesn't feel it is important to describe the details? Dec 2, 2015 at 5:08
  • @gurvinder372 Even saying "What I saw defied description" is some kind of description. At this point we'd have to see your text to determine if what you're planning works; it's too theoretical without more data. Dec 2, 2015 at 11:21

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