Though narrative writing is the most commonly used form of writing, hardly any of us know much about it. This article gives an overall insight into narrative writing.
Writing, for everyone, starts with essays and story writing. Knowingly or unknowingly, all of us write in different modes and styles, mainly persuasive, narrative, descriptive and expository. While persuasive writing influences the reader’s way of thinking about a particular subject, descriptive writing is when the writer portrays a person, place or a thing, by giving the minutest details about it. Expository writing, on the other hand, explains or defines a particular subject with less of description and more of information.
Narrative writing is nothing but story telling – fictional or non-fictional. Out of all the forms of writing, this genre is the most widely written as well as read, since it is very easy to narrate one’s experiences or to relate to someone else’s. Narrative writing is used for writing plays, movie scripts, personal essays as well as biographies, but their basic purpose remains the same – entertaining the readers.
Narrative writing, be it any type or genre, always follows a specific structure. The five elements that form this structure are:
› Setting – When and where the story takes place
› Characters – Main character (protagonist) and other important people in the story
› Problem – What challenge does the main character face
› Events – How the protagonist tries solving the problem
› Resolution – How is the problem ultimately solved
A personal narrative is where the writer narrates the events of his life in a chronological order, either to inspire or to entertain the readers. It can be a memorable experience or something that the writer has accomplished. The narrative illustrates the effect it had on his life. While writing a personal narrative, one should pay attention to the flow of the story; the dialog (if any), and include the description wherever necessary.
A good personal narrative affects the readers in a similar way in which it has affected the writer. Diaries and autobiographies are good examples of personal narratives.
Imaginative writing is basically writing fiction, writing something that is not factual. In this genre, the writer develops imaginative characters in interesting settings, either to entertain the audience or to convey his point of view. Using his creativity, the writer can go beyond reality and create unusual situations and events that could never happen in real life. But he has to make sure that the plot sounds convincing to the readers.
Egs. Short stories, novels, screenplays, and dramas.
Unlike a personal narrative, a biography is a non-fictional account of someone else’s life. The writer describes this person (subject) through his eyes. This kind of narrative depends entirely on the events that have taken place in the subject’s life, along with actions, quotes and even images. The subject can be someone in the writer’s present or past life, or a public figure.
There are various viewpoints in which a narrative can be written. It decides who is telling the story, and conveys whether the writer is a character in the story or outside the story or an observer.
In the first-person view, the narrator is most often the character in the story. Such a point of view helps the readers to relate to the story. In this case, the narrator may or may not be the protagonist but reveals the plot by referring to ‘I’. However, other viewpoints can also be introduced with the help of dialogs. In rare cases, the first-person view can also be told in plural, like in ‘A Rose for Emily’ by William Faulkner.
The rarest mode of narration, the second-person view refers to one of the characters in the story as ‘you’. Such a mode is used when the narrator wants the reader to feel as if he is himself the character in the story. Such a mode can also be used to create a sense of intimacy between the narrator and the reader.
Unlike the first- and second-person view, the third-person view does not connect to the reader. This mode gives the writer maximum freedom and flexibility of writing. Hence, this is the most common mode of writing. The third-person view is again of two types, i.e. subjective and objective. In the subjective view, the narrator describes the feelings and thoughts of one or more characters, whereas in an objective view, the emotions of the characters are not portrayed.
Another way in which the third-person view can be categorized is: omniscient and limited. In an omniscient view, the narrator portrays the feelings of all the characters, whereas in a limited view, the knowledge of the narrator is limited to only one character.
The view can also be alternating, in which the writer switches from one mode to the other. For example, from first-person view to the third-person view and then back to the first-person view. Another mode is the unreliable mode, which is mostly used to deceive the audience, for example, in a thriller or suspense novel.
Narratives have existed since a very long time in the form of legends, myths and ballads. Legends like Robin Hood, King Arthur, Godiva, Fountain of Youth, etc., have been handed down from generation to generation. These were written either with an intention to make a moral or just for the entertainment of the audience. Another form of narratives are fables, which are short stories, and make a moral point mostly by the means of animal characters and mythical creatures.
The best-known fables are Aesop’s Fables or Aesopica. Fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which have fantasy characters like fairies, witches, goblins, giants, dwarves, etc., are also examples of narratives.
It was only in recent times that writers started writing narratives in the form of science fiction and comic books. Science fiction is that genre of narrative writing that deals with the advancements in science and technology. Unlike other forms, this genre is non-supernatural and has futuristic elements like space travel and aliens. For example, 2001 – A Space Odyssey, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Fahrenheit 451.
Other forms of narrative writings include historical narratives, mysteries, horror stories, adventure stories, graphic novels and ballads. No matter what their mode or form, narratives are always an enjoyable experience, for both, readers as well as writers. So, go ahead and pen down that memorable event, that turning point of your life, the pleasures, the troubles… anything and everything that comes in your head! Happy writing!