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Narrative Writing

A story based on real or imagined event or sometimes a personal experience that creates attention and interest for both the author and the reader is called Narrative Writing. Once you have passion to write where your mind is buzzing with ideas your urge for writing becomes interesting and intriguing. Narrative writing gives writers a chance to think and tell a story. Authors usually tell narrative essays from a defined point of view, which involves the reader in the essentials and categorization of the story giving a feeling of and often provide sensory details.

A narrative is a story based on real or imagined event or a personal experience that creates interest for not only the author but also the reader. This type of writing makes the reader feel as if he/she were part of the story, as if it was being told directly to him or her. A narrative tells us what happens or happened. It mainly deals with events. It is a description of events. There are two kinds of events - internal and external.
  • Internal events relate to the thoughts, feelings and emotions of individuals. Therefore, an actual experience or an imaginary one is recreated so that the reader is able to experience it mentally.
  • When the characters and events relate to the action, the event is considered external. The action grips the attention of the reader.  

Events that occur over time relating a clear sequence in called Narrative Writing.

In short, narration is concerned with action and actors, it may make use of description but description is secondary. Action, characters and setting are the elements that are woven into a pattern to make the narrative interesting.


Elements of Narrative Writing

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The traditional elements of narrative: Setting, Character, Plot, Theme, and Style.

 Setting   The time and place of a story; usually there may be a change in the setting in course of story. 
 Character   People in the story
 Plot  The sequence of events in a story.
 Beginning → Middle → End
 Theme  Meaning of the story. The main idea of the narrative.
 Style  The author’s style of building the events with appropriate use of dialogs, description, and tone.

It is important to understand the basic elements of narrative before you start writing. To implement all the essential elements in your story, to be precise, you need to answer these 5 W and 1 H questions in your narration.
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?Who?
  • Why?
  • How?
Setting: This relates to the time, place, or date of action. The socioeconomic and political conditions prevalent at the time of the sequence of events set the motion of the narrative.

Characters: They are the sole of the narrative as the events are wound around the lives of the characters. The nature and behavior of the characters is unfolded. The action or the inaction of the character determines their fate.

Plot: Plot is the structure of a story. It describes a series of events that the characters experience in a story. Events unfold in sequence: one thing happens, then another. A well-developed plot has a beginning, middle, and end.

  • Enticing opening to grab the readers’ attention
  • Setting and main characters introduced
  • Conflict presented
  • Characters attempt to resolve problems or conflicts
  • Actions progresses sequentially
  • Turning point of the narrative
  • Reveals the process involved for solving the problems or conflicts
  • Tells how the resolution of the conflicts has affected the characters.
  • Theme or message understood by the readers.

Theme: Theme is the central message of a story or novel that readers can apply to life. A theme is not the same as a work’s subject, which can usually be expressed in a word or two: ambition, love. The theme is the message the writer wishes the readers to discover about that subject. The readers should know what the main theme of the story is. You could tell the readers the theme by answering this question - Why are you narrating this event/story? or What does this story reveal about life?

Narrative Writing Examples

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A narrative writing tells a story. It should include details that answer the 5 W’s (Who? What? When? Where? and Why?) about the experience or event.

Narrative Writing Example
Example of Narrative Writing

Writing Narratives

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Once you get into narrative writing, you will realize that your thoughts and experiences are as interesting as anyone else. In a narrative writing, you narrate an event or incident. This incident could be an emotional experience, a silly or serious event, or a frightening encounter. Be sure to include enough specific details to make the incident come alive for your readers.

Narrative Writing Steps

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When writing a narrative, follow these simple steps:

Narrative Writing Steps
STEP I: Analyze the Writing Topic.
STEP II: Organize Your Narrative.
STEP III: Write a Rough Draft of Your Narrative.
STEP IV: Edit and Proofread the Your Narrative’s Draft.
STEP V: Write a Final Copy of the Narrative.
STEP I: Analyze the Writing Topic

This step includes the Pre-writing stage.

  • Choosing a Subject: Think of a specific incident from your life or your friend’s life that you think will appeal to your readers.
  • Gathering Details: Jot down all the ideas and details that come to mind when you think of the experience. If necessary, collect more information from other people involved in the event.
  • Focusing Your Efforts: Decide on a particular feeling or mood that you want to convey in your story. For example, do you want to surprise your readers, make them laugh, have them share your sorrow or fear?
  • Sense the Details: Using Description: In order to make your audience see, hear, and feel your experience, you have to see, hear, and feel that experience yourself. One way to recall sensory details is to draw a picture of the setting or characters. Another way is to chart details for the five senses.
  • Analyzing the writing topic is the first step in learning how to write a narrative. The writing topic helps you think about what you will write. It establishes a focus for your writing. You should read and reread the writing topic carefully. In this way, you will respond only to the stated topic without straying from it.

STEP II: Organize Your Narrative

Do you want to start your narrative at the moment of the choice, at some point before it, or even after it? That’s a choice in itself, one that every writer faces.

Sequencing the events:
  • Chronological (time) order is effective for sharing a story or event. Information is organized according to what happens first, second, third, and so on. 
  • Another way to organize a narrative is to begin with an exciting moment right in the middle of the action.
  • Beginning at the beginning: It was the big game, the tiebreaker with the dreaded (and conceited) Wildcats, and I was batting sixth and playing left field.
  • Beginning in the middle: I was standing in left field-a rocky slope of unmoved, soggy grass-hoping that the ball wouldn’t be hit to me. And then it was.
Remember that a story should begin by establishing a setting. A setting is the time, place, and general background for a narrative. For instance, you could choose your setting to be near Yellowstone Park in the summer of the fifteenth birthday. You would describe the mountains, valleys, the lodge, and the stables where you picked your horse to ride on trail.

A narrative needs one or more characters (persons in the story). In addition, a story must contain a plot, a series of related events including conflict (struggle between different forces in a story) and leading to a climax (turning point in a story). A writer should also use suspense, so readers look forward to the next event in the narrative. Therefore, a narrative essay should have a setting, one or more characters, a clear plot with a beginning, a middle, an end, and suspense.

Most narratives follow a chronological order which is one event following another event in the order of time. The reader can then experience each event as it happens in a logical time sequence. It is recommended that you create a plot diagram before you write your narrative essay. 

Apart from following a chronological order, you could use another strategy to organize your narrative. This is called Pentading. Basically, pentading is creating an outline for a narrative using the 5 W’s (who, where, when, what happened, and why). Here is how you can use pentading to organize your narrative essay:

Step III: Write a Rough Draft of Your Narrative

The essay should be a 4-5 paragraph narrative essay.

In the first paragraph, the writer introduces the story by describing the setting and by stating the purpose of the narrative. In paragraphs 2-4, the writer tells the main parts of the story. In the last paragraph, the writer ends the narrative. This ending is sometimes called the resolution because it wraps up the loose ends of the story, so the writer can conclude the plot. A rough draft will contain errors and will probably need some changes, but the reader should be able to read the entire narrative from beginning to end. In addition, the rough draft contains sentences and paragraphs, and therefore, is a big step forward toward the completion of a narrative essay.

STEP IV: Edit and Proofread Your Narrative’s Draft

The next step in writing a narrative essay is to edit and proofread the rough draft.

Improving your Writing: Read over your first draft for overall effectiveness:
  • Have you said everything you intended to say?
  • Will your reader be able to follow your story, including any changes in time, place, or speaker?
  • Does your story entertain, surprise, or make a point?

Checking for Style and Accuracy:

Check the use of language, sentence variety, and writing conventions (spelling, punctuation, and grammar and usage). Review your revised writing for style, making sure that all of your sentences read smoothly and clearly and that you have used the best words to express your ideas.

STEP V: Write a Final Copy of the Narrative

This is the fifth and last step of the writing process.

Include appropriate transitional words so that the reader can follow the events in the narrative more easily. By using more vivid and concrete words and expressions, you can strengthen the narrative.

Narrative Writing Prompts

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To improve your proficiency in writing a story or narrative, choose some narrative topics from below:
  • Write an imaginary story about meeting an alien from another planet for the first time. Tell the reader about the experience. Develop your story with details.
  • Write about an experience you had that taught you a valuable lesson about life. Tell about the main events of that experience. Develop your story with details.
  • Skim through a photo album, a magazine, or a book, and find an interesting picture. Write a story about the person(s) in the picture. Include details in your story.
More topics in Narrative Writing
Autobiography Short Stories
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