In this paragraph, a student writer shares a dramatic and amusing moment.
I am a firefighter with the city fire department. Last fall, I responded to a fire call reported by a neighbor as “smoke in the house next door”. Upon arrival, we donned our self contained breathing apparatus and entered the house to do a primary search and rescue. We discovered that a meat loaf was burning in the oven, causing the kitchen and much of the house to fill with smoke. I quickly extinguished the meat loaf, then focus on searching for possible victims. I rushed around, hoping I wouldnt find anyone home, but knowing I had to check everywhere to be sure. Upon entering the bathroom, I came upon a lady soaking in the tub. She was listening to loud music and apparently hadnt heard a thing. I guess I must have looked like Darth Vader, because she screamed and threw a bottle of shampoo at me. Before entering the bathroom, I was worrying about possible victims, but seeing her like that embarrassed me so that I couldnt concentrate on the job I needed to do. Everything worked out well, and it is the experience I will never forget. (Surmelian 65).
1.3 Organizing Information
Most of the time, narrative writing is organized chronologically, meaning that events move forward in time. Sometimes, the writer changes normal order by using flashbacks. The writer describes an earlier event, disturbing the chronology but providing insight or explanation. Less often, a writer may jump forward in time. Ordinarily, straightforward chronology suits your stories, and it is easy for readers to follow. But if you want to jump back or forward in time, you can, provided you make sure your readers will understand what you are doing. There are some cases, when the writers organize information so as to build suspense or create a surprise ending. They withhold information so that the reader is lured along, picking up clues as in a detective story. Sometimes, writers give clues that lead to an amusing ending. Writers can use narratives for their own sake or as part of other kinds of writing. Narratives are among the most enjoyable kinds of writing - for readers and writers. The principles are more or less self-evident: select a narrow enough topics, select appropriate details, and organize so that the reader can follow the sequence of events. (Karls J. / Szmanski R.112-113)
In the following whimsical paragraph, the early statements entice readers, arouse their curiosity, and keep them reading until they come upon a surprise ending:
She was standing in the corner, the light reflecting off her soft brown hair. Her eyes were beckoning for attention. As I approached her, a gentleman asked me if I need some assistance, and so inquired about her. He said “She is 10 percent off this evening”. After asking if she was clean and in good health and being assured she was, I walked over to her. I held her in my arms, and she gave me a kiss. She looked longingly into my eyes, and I caressed her face. I asked how much she would cost, and the man said, “$55". I paid at once and took the cuddly rabbit home. Rabbits are lovable and inexpensive pets.
Chapter Two. Major Functions of Narration
Narration has two major functions: informing (nonfiction) and entertaining (fiction) by narrating.
2.1 Informing by Narrating
Narrating is telling a story. Usually, you think of telling a story, you think of fiction - of novels and short stories. But fiction is only one kind of narrative. There are narratives that are true - accounts of real incidents and events. Because narration can be based on fact as well as on imagination, it can be used to inform as well as to entertain. For example, you can use narration to tell your reader about personal experiences - your first day on a new job - or historical events - the Apollo 13 space flight. You can use it to explain a process - how the body digests food - or the way to do something - how to play chess. If description is like a photograph, then narration is like a motion picture. Narration follows events through time. (Kharatyan M. / Vardanyan L.55)
There are singled out two types of narratives:
If you are going to write about something that happened to you, you will probably write a first - person narrative. You will say things like “I did this” and “We did that". This is your experience, so you will include your reactions to events, your feelings about them. But there is an important limitation to this approach. To be consistent, you can relate only what you know and feel or what others report to you - your point of view is restricted to your own thoughts, feelings, and observations. And since what happened has already occurred, you will probably do you are telling in the past tense. This is what the actress Shirley McLain has done in her autobiography. Here is an excerpt from it describing how she commuted to dancing class while she was in high school.
Rehearsals ended at midnight. I would rush for the bus, which it seemed, was always either late or early, but never on schedule. Id stumble groggily from the bus an hour and a half later, and make my way down the quiet street to a dark and silent house. My dinner usually was saltine crackers smothered in ketchup and Tabasco and with them a quart of ginger ale. I always ate standing up, and then Id stagger to bed, rarely before two oclock…
It was a lonely life, for a teenager especially, but I had a purpose - a good reason for being. And I learned something about myself that still holds true: I cannot enjoy anything unless I work hard at it.
Sometimes, in a personal narrative, you will want to give the reader a special feeling of immediacy. You will want your reader to have a feeling of being there and experiencing what is happening along with you. Often you can covey this feeling by using the present tense. Here is a writer narrating an event that he experienced thirty years ago. But he uses the present tense. The event was the Allied invasion of German - occupied France. He was on one of the thousands of ships that crossed the Channel from England to Normandy. (Brown 61-62)
It is three am, it is four am. We are six miles off shore… By now the enemy must know whats up. Bombers roar overhead. Flares drop inland. I am so wrought up I do knee bends. A thousand youngsters are on board almost as inexperienced as I. It is pathetic to hear them ask my opinion. Everythings fine I say. Now we wait three miles off shore. All nine guns point at the beach.5: 30 am. There are yellow streaks in the cloud cover. Now! The guns go off and our ship the Quincy bounces. Down finds us on Germanys doormat like the morning milk bottle.
2.2 Objective Narratives
When someone else - not you - is the centre of your narrative, you will probably write in the third person. That is you will write “She did this” and “They did that". And since you are not the focus of the narrative, your feelings and reactions will be kept in the background or omitted entirely. This is what meant by objective narrative because objective narrative does not require a restricted, first-person viewpoint, you have an advantage. You can describe events going on in several different places, even when you are not a witness to them. Also, if you want to suggest a habitual action, an action that repeats itself, you may want to use the present tense in an objective narration.
Here is part of an objective narrative. The writer is explaining how a pioneer couple located their homestead on the Nebraska prairie in 1873.
George Cather hired a man with team and wagon, measured the circumference of one of the back wheels, tied a rag on the rim so they could more easily count the revolutions and started across the prairie. George had a compass to keep him going in the right direction. His wife sat in the back of the wagon, counted revolutions and computed mileage… When they had according to calculations, reached their homestead, they drove on a bit to what they judged to be the center of their property, just to make sure they were really on their own land - and pitched a tent for the night. (Karls J. / Szmanski R.115)
2.3 Anecdotes and Illustrations
Sometimes youll find that you need to support a general statement with a specific example to fully express what you mean. One way you can do this is with a brief story - an anecdote. Thus, you may include a small - scale narrative, or perhaps several, in a larger composition.
Here is an anecdote told about Jackie Robinson after his retirement from major league baseball. The writer uses it as an example to support his general statement about the character and strength of Jackie Robinson even in ill health.
He accepted the blindness and the limping with a courage born of beauty. At an old - timers game last season in Los Angeles, someone threw a baseball at him from the grandstands, ordering, “Hey, Robinson. Sign this”. The unseen baseball struck his forehead. He signed it.
An anecdote is a vivid way to back up a general statement. But you cant count on always having one handy. And sometimes an anecdote just doesnt seem to fit in. Then, rather than have your reader hang in the air with only a general statement, you should specify. You should back up your statement with an illustration. For instance