Monday, 9 January 2012

Narrative Writing

Checklists for effective narrative writing

1.   Opening/setting scene or introducing characters
Some possible options for opening a story ‘to grab the reader’
·         using dialogue, e.g. a warning given by one character to another
·         asking the reader a question
·         describing some strange behaviour of one of the characters
·         using a dramatic exclamation (Help!) or dramatic event
·         introducing something intriguing

Techniques for introducing characters
·         using an interesting name
·         limiting description on how the character feels, e.g. sad, lonely, angry or  
          what they are, e.g. bossy, shy
·         relying on portraying character through action and dialogue
·         using powerful verbs to show how a character feels and behaves, e.g. 
          muttered, ambled
·         giving the thoughts and reactions of other characters
·         revealing the characters’ own thoughts and ideas
2.     Build-up/creating setting
·         making the characters do something
·         using detail based on sense impressions – what can be seen, heard, smelt, 
          touched or tasted
·         basing settings on known places plus some invented detail
·         using real or invented names to bring places alive – to help to make the setting 
          more real and more believable
·         creating atmosphere, e.g. what is hidden, what is dangerous, what looks 
          unusual, what is out of place
·         using the weather, time of day and season as well as place
·         lulling the reader into a false sense of security that all is well

3.     Dilemma
·         introducing a problem
·         using ‘empty’ words, e.g. ‘someone’ to create suspense
·         using short sentences to be dramatic
·         strengthening nouns and verbs rather than adding adjectives and adverbs
·         employing suspense words such as ‘suddenly’, ‘without warning’
·         drawing the reader in by asking a question
·         occasionally breaking the sentence rule by using a fragment to emphasise a 
          point, e.g. ‘Silence!’
·         varying sentence openings by sometimes starting with an adverb, e.g. 
          ‘Carefully’; a prepositional phrase, e.g. ‘At the end of the street’; a  
           subordinate clause, e.g. ‘Although she was tired, Vanya….’ Or ‘Swinging his 
           stick in the air, he….’
·         delaying the revealing of the ‘monster’ by shadows, sounds, etc.
·         using ominous sounds, darkness or cold to build the tension

4.   Reaction/events
·         building on many of the techniques already used in the earlier part of the story
·         varying sentences structures by using longer sentences to get a rhythm going to 
          describe the increasing tension as events unfold
·         using alliteration and short sentences to portray sounds within the action
·         using metaphor and simile to help paint the scene and describe the feelings of 
          the characters
·         introducing further possible complications, using connecting words and phrases 
          such as ‘unfortunately……’ or ‘what he hadn’t noticed was…..’

5.   Resolution and ending
      Techniques for resolving the dilemma
·         allowing help to arrive in an unexpected form, such as ‘It was at that moment 
          that …..’
·         making the character(s) do something unexpected
·         showing that the problem/dilemma was only in the characters’ minds and not 
·         allowing the character some extra effort to overcome the problem
·         only resolving a part of the dilemma so the characters learn a lesson for the 

      Some possible options for closing a story
·         making a comment about the resolution
·         using dialogue – a comment from one of the characters
·         using a question
·         making a mysterious remark
·         telling the reader to remember or do something
·         showing how a character has changed
·         using one word or an exclamation
·         avoiding clichés such as ‘The end’ or ‘They all lived happily ever after’ unless 
          it  is a fabrication of a traditional story
·         reflecting on events and perhaps providing a moral
·         allowing the main character to think aloud
·         introducing an element of mystery, e.g. ‘Vanya would never know how lucky 
          she was that….’
·         looking to the future
·         revisiting where the story began

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