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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. There is a change in voice from scene to summary and from summary to scene, and the reader unconsciously prefers a character voice, because it means more mimetic writing. When the writer speaks through his own voice the all-important element of mimesis is definitely less and the readers interest decreases. Hearing is substituted for seeing and the ear is weaker than the eye in the creation in mental images. Nevertheless, no matter how scenic, a story requires a narrator. Omniscience may be eliminated, but not the narrators voice. We still hear it.

Summary, unlike scene, does not individualize characters through their actions and speech. It throws the whole burden of narration on the shoulders of the author or his narrator. It gives us experience secondhand. Scene is self-explanatory, in summary the narrator explains. Summary tends to be abstract, discursive, with something fanciful and “literary" clinging to it, in contrast to the concrete specific act of the scene. Scene at its best has the impact of life. In it, the characters are on their own; in summary they lack this independence. In scene, the reader also is on his own, judging the action for himself and interpreting it in his own way, in summary, the reader is guided by the narrator, who speaks in his own voice, whether or not the reader is directly addressed. Something is happening in the scene, in summary it has already happened. (Surmelian 16-18)

Summary makes for distance. It does not give us a close-up of the action as it occurs, it is along short. We no longer have the words spoken by the characters to others or to themselves. Summary may reveal the characters, describe their actions and thoughts and feelings, but it is not a close re-creation as in the scene. It does not have the power of dramatic imitation, and the reader is deprived of the pleasure of viewing the event for himself. Summary lacks the vividness of the scene, the immediacy, the recentness of the action acted out by the actors.

Yet summary does many important things in a story. It links the scenes together and gives the story continuity and unity. If we consider scenes the main building blocks, summaries are the cement in creative construction. The summaries that link scenes also disconnect them. Summary means a break in the action, a lapse in the continuity of time, or a change of place, but if it does not happen too often, the story keeps moving despite, and because of, these breaks. An extended summary, as when the author inserts an essay or biography or a long description in the story, would break the continuity of the action. It may be done in a novel.



Having studied the recent achievements of the theory of narration, its point of types and functions we have come to the following conclusions.

Narration is an act of telling a story. It is not just telling a story, but it also telling a story of a sequence of real or fictional events - which seems to be 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? ”

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.

The using techniques of narrative writing:

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.

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

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 read clear to the reader.

There are two major functions of narrative writing: informing by narrating (fiction) and informing by entertaining (non-fiction). In the case of informing by narrating two types of narratives are singled out: personal narratives and objective narratives. The story is used as a main subtype, when applying informing by entertaining. The story consists of the setting, the plot, the scene and the summary.



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  2. Evans V. / Dooley J. Course Book Enterprise. Longman, 2001
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  4. Kharatyan M. / Vardanyan L. Develop your writing skills. Yerevan, 2006
  5. Soars S. / Headway L. Students Book, Advanced. Oxford, 1995
  6. Surmelian L. Techniques of Fiction Writing Doubleday and Company, Inc. Garden City. New York, 1988.

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