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Descriptive & Narrative Writing

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  1. Descriptive & Narrative Writing Foundations of Writing II


  3. Which story would you rather read? Why? When I got up this morning, I had a good breakfast. Then I took the kids to school and went to work, which I hate. After work was school, which was long. Later I picked up the kids. We had dinner, I did my homework, and we went to bed. This morning I awoke with a craving for omelets and bacon, so I treated myself and my kids. With the aroma of bacon lingering in the air, I rounded up the little rascals and dropped them off at Hogwarts Elementary before heading a few blocks further to my prison cell cubicle at ABC Company. Thankfully, it was only a half day for me, and at noon I darted out to join my Foundations of Writing II class at Globe University. Despite the activities, class dragged on forever, and 4 o’clock seemed light years away. It finally came, though, and as soon as I wrangled my kids, made a pot of Mac & Cheese, tucked them in, and finished my assignment, I finally had some free time. Unfortunately, by that time it was nearly midnight, and I was sprawled out on the couch, resisting sleep—as I knew tomorrow would bring the same routine!

  4. Traits of Descriptive Writing • Appeals to the senses • Describes things in ways you can smell, see, hear, taste, and touch • Ex. Airplane • Smell: Jet fuel, the person next to you? • See: Seats, wings, cockpit • Hear: Crying children, captain over the intercom, whirring engine • Taste: Free mini-packages of pretzels, $10 drink • Touch: Knees pressed up against seat in front of you, person next to you hogging arm rest, head hitting ceiling when you stand • Uses concrete, specific nouns • Ex. Lieutenant vs. officer • Ex. Sedan vs. car • Emphasizes people, places, and things more than ideas

  5. Traits of Descriptive Writing • Uses specific, unique descriptions (adjectives and adverbs) • Ex. Pot-bellied stove, smiled icily • Avoid abstract descriptions, whenever possible, like “good,” “beautiful,” “evil,” etc. • Weak: My daughter has a beautiful smile. • Stronger: My daughter has straight, porcelain teeth and full lips that seem to extend to her ears. • Sometimes, incorporates brand names • Adds specificity, but over-branding can become overwhelming or annoying • Ex. .44 Magnum vs. gun

  6. Traits of Descriptive Writing • Varies in verb choice • Use a thesaurus! • Ex. Wrecked vs. dead, glimpsed vs. saw, emerged vs. got out of, etc. • The Writer’s Motto: Show Don’t Tell • Lead your reader to where you want to be • Allow him/her to figure out what happened by setting the scene • Weak: My dad was angry. • Stronger: The vein in my dad’s forehead was bulging. As he yelled, bits of foam began to gather at the corners of his mouth.

  7. Descriptive Example (CD)

  8. Organizing Description • Spatially • Move right to left, top to bottom • Useful when describing physical attributes of a person, place, or thing • Ex. George the Cowboy • Chronologically • Recall events in time order • Useful when describing a process; also useful when telling a story • Ex. My Eventful Ride to Work • Order of Importance • Start and/or end on most important/dominant trait(s) • Useful when you are providing a catalog of specific (sometimes diverse) descriptions about something • The Different Personalities on my Hockey Team

  9. General Tips • Consider Tone and Audience • Who will be reading your description? What kind of description will be most effective for your intended reader? • Match you word choice to your mood, your mood to your crowd • Attributes • With the emphasis on concrete vs. specific words, it may be easy to forget about non-physical attributes • As often as you write about the color or shape of something, try to be specific about the feelings, motives, and fears of your subject, too. • Ex. Physical attributes: straight hair, white walls • Ex. Non-physical attributes: kind to strangers, cavern-like atmosphere

  10. General Tips • Examples • Draw on particular instances/examples over long-standing generalities • Often help keep your writing concrete (showing) vs. abstract (telling) • Weak: My son hates doing his homework. • Stronger: Each night, when I tell him to do his homework, my son stamps his feet and wails for at least thirty minutes. • Perspective • As the narrator, always remember where you are in space and time • Move on to descriptions of new people or places only after you have made it explicitly clear the scene is changing


  12. The Inverted Checkmark:The Structure of a Story • Rising Action • Small Crisis • Falling Action • Continued Rising Action • Larger Crisis • Falling Action • Critical Rising Action • Climax • Denouement

  13. Addressing the 5 Ws • By the end of your piece, the reader should have a good idea of the 5 Ws/1 H • Ex. The Three Little Pigs • Who: Three pigs • What: They need to build houses to protect themselves from the wolf • Where: A magical land where pigs build their own homes • When: A magical time when pigs build their own homes • Why: To teach reader importance of doing something well the first time • How: Show two failures (taking short cuts) and one success (taking time/effort) • Try to show rather than tell as much as you can

  14. Point of View • First-Person: “I” • Started becoming common in late 1800s and onward • I am the narrator of my own story • Second-Person: “You” • Very modern/postmodern • Used in experimental work; rare • Whole story is what “you” (often reader—but not always) do

  15. Point of View • Third Person: “He/She” • Omniscient: • Oldest form of narration • Follows events and consciousness of multiple people • Limited: • Use came into fashion between 3rd Person Omniscient and 1st person • Follows events and consciousness of one person (primarily), but narrator is a separate being

  16. CD/Textbook Tips

  17. CD/Textbook Tips

  18. CD/Textbook Tips

  19. CD/Textbook Tips

  20. CD/Textbook Tips

  21. Activities • Working together in small groups: • Create a narrative that tells the story of the picture on pg. 128 • Make sure you • Determine the 5Ws & 1H • Use all 5 senses in your description • Try to create build tension and create a story that adheres to the Inverted Checkmark structure • Aim for at least 1 notebook page • As a large group: • Share the principles that make your story a strong piece of descriptive & narrative writing