The Language of Narrative Writing

Robert Cohn was a member, through his father, of one of the richest Jewish families in New York, and through

The Language of Narrative Writing


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YEREVAN - 2009




Chapter One. Techniques of Narrative Writing

1.1 Selecting a Topic

1.2 Selecting Details

1.3 Organizing Information

Chapter Two. Major Functions of Narration

2.1 Informing by Narrating

2.2 Objective Narratives

2.3 Anecdotes and Illustrations

2.4 Narrating a Process

2.5 Entertaining by Narrating

2.6 The Story

2.7 The Setting

2.8 The Plot

2.9 The Scene

2.10 The Summary






The present paper explores the peculiarities of narrative writing from the view point of its structure, functions and types. Narration is an act of telling a story. It is not just telling a story, but it is also telling a story of a sequence of real or fictional events - which seems to be a more natural activity for most people than, say, giving directions or describing a scene. Narration is the kind of writing that answers the question, “What happened?” The expression “narrative writing" covers an enormous territory. Narratives vary in length from a few sentences to long stories. Some narratives are based on actual experience, some are entirely fictitious, and others use a mixture of truth and fiction. Some narratives are meant to amuse, others inform or convey a message to readers. Narratives appear in many forms, including poetry, “regular” prose stories, and drama on the stage, in film, or on television. In short you are surrounded by narratives every day, some of them in print, many in the electronic media, and others passed along orally. Good narratives can be spoken just as well as written, but audiences expect more polish and structure in written work. Though narratives often make serious points, many narratives are meant to amuse. Most readers enjoy lighthearted or humorous stories, even if the experiences were not humorous to the people involved at the time. Some readers are also entertained by scary stories, which may be about narrow escapes and other frightening moments in the writers lives.

The paper consists of an introduction, two chapters, a conclusion and bibliography. Introduction reveals the general guidelines of the paper.

Chapter one presents the major techniques of narrative writing.

Chapter two concentrates on types and functions of narrative writing, signing out informing by narrating and entertaining by narrating.

Conclusion summarizes the results and outcomes we have come to in the course of the research.

Chapter One. Techniques of Narrative Writing


No one knows for how many thousands of years people have been telling and listening to narratives, but we do know that every culture has a storytelling tradition; even it does not have a writing system. Well before Homo sapiens learned to read and write, they had evidently framed much of their wisdom in story form. Fiction has always been a natural vehicle for people to communicate their experiences, fantasies, and fears. Similarly, children delight in stories long before they are able to read or write. Almost as soon as a child has learned to talk, she can enjoy not only listening to stories, but making up her own as well. She may pretend, for example, that her stuffed animal is alive and wants a cookie, or she may scold a doll for some imaginary misbehavior. These baby stories become more elaborate as the child acquires more experiences to weave into her fiction, and she will often develop her own version of a story she has heard. We adults gossip, share jokes, complain about what happened to us this morning, speculate about the future. And in telling even these informal tales, we are likely to pay careful attention to the sequence of the events we are speaking about. Because stories create an order that life lacks, we naturally draw upon narrative. To make sense of our lives, we need to think of beginnings, middles, and endings, and we use these fictions to try to organize the past, the present and the future. (Surmelian 92)

Though narratives often make serious points, many narratives are meant to amuse. Most readers enjoy lighthearted or humorous stories, even if the experiences were not humorous to the people involved at the time. Some readers are also entertained by scary stories, which may be about narrow escapes and other frightening moments in the writers lives. Such stories may simply thrill readers, or they may be the basis for a serious point. Writers sometimes relate embarrassing moments, not necessarily to convey serious messages, but to amuse and to share those experiences with readers. Whether narratives convey a serious point or simply entertain, they express main ideas and back them up with supporting information. In other words, narratives follow the main principles of paragraph writing:

Present a topic idea (often in a topic sentence at the beginning)

Support that topic idea with the other sentences

In narrative writing, you will continue to apply these principles:

1. Select and refine the topic so that a main idea is stated clearly in the topic sentence. In narratives, the main idea will probably deal with conflict or emotional response to conflict.

2. Select appropriate, vivid supporting details. In narratives, the details will tell about time, place, actions, and peoples motives and reactions.

3.organize the information so that readers will be able to understand and follow the story. In narratives, chronological arrangement is normal. Any shifts in time (or place) must be made clear to the reader. (Karls/Szmanski 110-111).


1.1 Selecting a Topic


For narratives, as for other kinds of writing, look for possible topics in your own life: your background, experiences, interests, and firsthand observation of other people. You will write best when you write about things that really matter to you: personal experiences, beliefs, worries, impressions, and knowledge in specific areas. You may begin with many possible topics. Brainstorming will produce related ideas, or sometimes lead you to an even better topic. Before writing, you must examine the possible topics and supporting ideas. The goal is to narrow your focus to specific instance. One way to narrow a broad topic is to limit the time and place to a few minutes (or maybe a few hours) and to particular place. For example, suppose you enjoy hunting, fishing, and exploring in parks and forests, you also work on a construction crew. You could tell many stories based on your experiences, but for a brief narrative, you would limit yourself to one brief time in one specific place. Ideally, you would select an episode that stands out in your mind as dramatic or memorable.

In this paragraph, the student writer limited himself to one brief but dramatic moment:

Last October, I was out in the woods with a work crew, cutting a surveying line for a gas pipeline. We got to a clearing and decided to take a break. Seconds after I found a tree to lean against, I heard the crackle of underbrush breaking. I turned to look and saw a huge bear racing right at me. I remembered that I was armed with only a machete and a walkie-talkie. I nudged a guy near me. We stood there helpless with our mouths open and our eyes the size of frying pans. The bear kept coming until it was about fifteen feet away. Suddenly it saw us. I had never before seen a bear with a surprised look on its face. Within a second, it lurched back into the woods. But before we could breathe a sigh of relief, another big bear came rushing toward us. When it got within about seven feet and saw us, it also dashed into the woods. Our hearts were pounding. When we recovered a little, we decided that the next time we work in the woods; we should go better prepared for the unexpected. (Karls J. / Szmanski R.112-113).


1.2 Selecting Details


When you have a workable topic in mind, some details will occur to you immediately, and others will spring to mind as you brainstorm and write your first drafts. You want to select the best details you can. That means selecting relevant, vivid details. At times, you may think of a dramatic moment, full of colorful details sure to grab your readers attention and hold their interest. If so, writing comes more easily, except that you may not have a main idea until you think about the story later. At other times, you may be writing simply to share an interesting or amusing experience; your main idea may be implied. Besides using details to make the scene vivid, you must provide the details readers need in order to understand the situation. When you write you first draft, you will put in some appropriate details; you may also end with some irrelevant ones. As you revise, you must consider which details really matter. You want to include details that help support your main idea. The goal in selecting details sounds quite simple and obvious: Tell the readers what they need to know, nothing more and nothing less. Telling the readers more than they need

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