Narrative Writing:
The Art of Telling a Great Story

Narrative writing is all about telling a story. When writing fiction, short stories, biographies, autobiographies, historical accounts, essays, poems, and plays, you have to know that it must be interesting and compelling if you want your work to be noticed and narrative and descriptive writing is how to get you there.

There are so many things that go into a good narrative and they are all important parts of the puzzle so staying aware of them is vital in creating your story.

Before you write, it's a good idea to get some thoughts on paper. You can do this by creating an outline or just jotting down ideas. You don't have to make this a big scary thing, just have fun with it and use it as a tool to get your creativity flowing.

Look at each of the points below and make a note of your ideas for each one. This exercize helps you to organize your thoughts and can make the writing process much easier in the long run.

The general characteristics of narrative writing include:

  • Plot - a literary term for the events a story comprises, particularly as they relate to one another in some type of pattern, a progression or a sequence, through cause and effect, or by coincidence.The structure of the plot includes the introduction, some type of rising action, a climax, then the falling action, followed by the resolution.
  • Conflict - is an opposition of people, forces, or other entities. When thinking about conflict, it's important to be clear about how the character deals with conflicts, by focusing on the contradictory emotions within a person that make them behave the way they do.
  • Characterization - is the process of passing on information about characters in narrative or dramatic works of art. Characters may be presented by means of description through their actions, speech, or thoughts.
  • Setting - is where the story takes place and is an important part of telling a story. The setting gives the story distinctiveness and is as important as the characters.
  • Theme - is the unifying subject or idea of a story. It is the main idea, moral, or message, whether it be about ones life, or society in general. Themes usually explore timeless and universal ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly. Along with plot, character, setting, and style, theme is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.
  • Point of View - focuses on who it telling the story. There are the views of the first person, second person and third person as well as the alternating person view. While the general rule for novels is to adopt a single approach to point of view throughout the story, there are exceptions. Many stories, especially in literature, alternate between the first and third person. In this case, an author will move back and forth between a more "all knowing" third-person narrator to a more personal first-person narrator.
  • Sequencing - a symbolic linear depiction known as a sequence or time line on how things and events unfold in a story. On occasion, novels will have flashbacks or flash forwards that disrupt the normal sequencing of a storyline.
  • Transitions - a process or period in which the story undergoes a change and passes from one stage, action or activity to another.

I love to write fiction and am often asked how to get better at narrative writing and my answer is always the same. Practice.

By taking online creative writing courses, you become more accountable and creative writing ideas become a part of your day. These classes also offer creative writing tips that will do wonders for you as you set your writing goals.

You can also get a home study course. I like Sentence Openers: Mary Duffy's Writing Guide. It is a writing guide that empowers all writers to write like pros, without memorization, drills, or tedious exercises.

Descriptive writing is so important whether you are writing childrens books, writing an autobiography, writing a screenplay, or working on your creative writing prompts, narrative writing is the skill you must keep working on.

When you write to the best of your abilities, using your creativity and letting your mind be open to the possibilities, you get better at it.

I have a few writing prompts that I use when teaching narrative writing and am offering them here for you to use as well.

Have fun with them and let yourself be creative!

Narrative Writing Prompts

If you are feeling a little stuck, it can be fun to practice with prompts to get you warmed up and your creativity flowing. Try these ideas or something of your own and get writing again!

1. Childhood Event - Choose a vivid time from your childhood -- maybe it is the first time that you rode a bike on your own, or a time when you got in trouble in school and went to the principal's office, or the first fight you got into with your best friend, your first crush and so on. Narrate the events related to the childhood memory that you've chosen so that your readers will understand why the event was important and memorable.

2. Light-bulb Moment - Think of an experience when you realized that you suddenly understood an idea, how to perform a skill, or gotten a concept you had been struggling with. It could be something related to a class that you took or a specific skill you were trying to perfect.

For instance, you might think about trying to understand how to do an algebra problem when you have never been good at math, or learned a dance you had been trying to master. Then after working and working, it just clicked for you!

Use narrative writing that tells the story of your movement toward your understanding. How did you finally come to the point where you "got it"? What changed your perceptions and gave you a new understanding? Your paper should help readers understand how you felt to struggle with the idea or skill and how it felt to understand.

3. Standing Up - Choose a time when you did something that took a lot of nerve, a time when you didn't follow the crowd or a time when you stood up for a friend or your beliefs. Perhaps your friends were urging you to do something that you were uncomfortable with and you chose not to cave into peer pressure.

Maybe you took a stance on a religious or social issue that was important to you. Whatever you choose, think about the details of the event and write a story that tells about what happened. Your narrative should show your readers why you decided to make a stand or try something that took nerve, give specifics on the events, and share how you felt after the event.

If none of these ideas work for you, think about a time in your life that was important to you and write about that. It doesn't matter so much what you write about as long as it has meaning for you. Keep working on your narrative writing and learn to be a good observer and you will be writing great narratives in no time!

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