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Tell Me a Story. Narrative Writing.

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tell me a story

Tell Me a Story

Narrative Writing


This presentation will provide you with the essential characteristics of a narrative. These are the very same characteristics that you will need to include in your own narrative. The effective inclusion of these elements will be reflected in your summative grade for this writing exercise.

(So…yeah…TAKE NOTES!)


What is a narrative?

A narrative is a storythat is told with the expressed purpose of communicating a larger idea, or theme, about the human experience.


Element #1: Purpose

A narrative should communicate a larger idea about what it means to be human.

These larger ideas often transcend TIME and PLACE (meaning anyone, anywhere, at any point in history could relate to this idea).

The purpose of your narrative may be EXPLICIT or IMPLICIT. Try to avoid preaching!


So as you are considering a time of adversity in your life, ask yourself what you gained or learned from this struggle.


While your experience was in many ways unique to you, the big ideas/lessons you learned are likely universal to most humans.


Element #2: Opener

INSPIRE your audience to read the rest of your narrative by how you choose to begin it.


Element #2: Opener

Options to begin:

Begin your story in the middle, at a point of conflict or action.

Begin with a direct quote from a character in your narrative.


Element #2: Opener

You should try to avoid asking a question,

especially one that is cliché, vague, or

impossible to answer, like---

“Have you ever wondered about the meaning

of life?”

“Are we ever going to find a cure for cancer?”

“Have you ever considered eating glass as a hobby?”


Element #2: Opener

You KNOW what you think is interesting. If you reread the beginning of your essay and it is BORING, try again.


Element #3: Pacing

Pacing is the rate at which a story is told.

Quick Pace: Author covers a long period of time with few words. This is a great way to give the history of a situation, often at the beginning of a piece.


Remember, you won’t be able to tell every detail of a story; cover only what is most critical to your purpose.


Element #3: Pacing

Slow Pace: Author provides A LOT of detail about a single moment. Pace usually slows at the climax of a story. This is effective if your point is to show the significance of that moment.


Element #4: Description

Use detail that appeals to the senses of your audience. This type of language will create images in the mind of your reader.

(The more detail you add, the slower the pace of the story.)


Element #4: Description

The best stories manage to showinstead of tell.

For example, writing, “My dad was angry.” doesn’t show the reader anything.


However: My dad’s face grew red. His jaw tightened as his eyes narrowed into a tight squint. He pointed his finger at me and bellowed, “You did WHAT with the car?”

OK…NOW I can see it.

(Wow, are you in



Provide the reader with an actual experience.

Put yourself in the scene before writing it – what do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste?


Describe any and every motion possible

Ex: the floor creaked, steam rose from the soup, the wind moaned, a lock clicked, etc...

Read your drafts carefully and out loud!


Element #5: Dialogue

Use DIALOGUE…or the exact words of a character.


Use dialogue sparingly, only capturing the most important words of a character.


Element #5: Dialogue

Dialogue slows the pace of a narrative. Use it at the most important moments.

Dialogue should sound REAL… like words that would actually come out of the mouth of the character you have assigned them to.


Element #6: Diction

Diction is the author’s choice of words. Make sure your level of diction is fitting for the piece you are writing.


Diction can be VERY INFORMAL (good for emails and text messages).

Diction in your essay will be somewhere in between… THINK about what is the best level of diction for the narrative you are going to write.


Element #7: Clarity

If a narrative has clarity, then it does not have any confusing, vague or unnecessary sections. There is NEVER a time when the reader doesn’t know what is going on.


Consider this: according to philosopher Kenneth Burke, every human action is influenced by five elements:

ACT (what)

SCENE (where, when)

AGENT (who)

AGENCY (how)