To narrate simply means to tell a story. It can be fiction or non-fiction.
We find narrative language in:
b. Travel writing
d. Novels/Short stories.
e. Plays/Film Scripts
Features of Narrative Writing:
- Narratives generally have a beginning, middle and end.
- Most are set in the past tense.
- Setting, character and action are all very important.
- Good narration will have lots of descriptive detail
Different types of narrator:
a. 1st person (I),
b. 3rd person Limited,
c. 3rd person Omniscient – all seeing, all knowing – can give thoughts of multiple characters.
In a first-person story, a character in the story tells the story and in the third-person, an outside narrator tells the story. Keep in mind that first-person narrators can only tell what they know (which will be limited to what they see firsthand or are told by others), while third-person narrators can either know everything (omniscient) and explore every character’s thoughts, or be limited to only that which can be observed (limited).
First person narration:
When I was a child, I believed everything adults told me. I had blind and unquestioning faith in my parents and siblings and took them at their word. I believed my sister when she told me that Chipsticks were addicitive and warily steered clear of them in the shops, running away from anyone who offered me a Chipstick in the school playground…those pushers, I would not succumb. I’d seen people go to three packets a day and I didn’t have the pocket money to sustain that kind of habit and, before you know it, I would have been raiding the copper box on the mantelpiece for the 8p to buy the bags in secret – that was one slippery slope that I was not prepared to slide down.
By Aoife Duggan from A Page in the Life: True Stories from RTE’s The Marian Finucane Shoe.
Third Person Narration (Limited)
Harry had taken up his place at wizard school, where he and his scar were famous ...but now the school year was over, and he was back with the Dursleys for the summer, back to being treated like a dog that had rolled in something smelly.
The Dursleys hadn't even remembered that today happened to be Harry's twelfth birthday. Of course, his hopes hadn't been high.
Third Person Narration (Omniscient)
Margaret, the eldest of the four, was sixteen, and very pretty, being plump and fair, with large eyes, plenty of soft brown hair, a sweet mouth, and white hands, of which she was rather vain. Fifteen-year-old Jo was very tall, thin, and brown, and reminded one of a colt, for she never seemed to know what to do with her long limbs, which were very much in her way. Elizabeth, or Beth, as everyone called her, was a rosy, smooth-haired, bright-eyed girl of thirteen, with a shy manner, a timid voice, and a peaceful expression which was seldom disturbed. Amy, though the youngest, was a most important person, in her own opinion at least.
From Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
In the composition section there will be an option to demonstrate narrative writing by composing a short story on a given topic. A quotation from one of the Texts on Paper 1 will inspire it but you must focus on the task given rather than the quotation.
For example in the 2104 paper this featured:
1. “It is about the ghost-life that hovers over the furniture of our lives...” (TEXT 3)
Write a short story in which a ghostly presence plays a significant part.
Composing a coherent short story in 70 minutes in an exam is very challenging and I would only recommend students who are enthusiastic creative writers to take it on. If you do think the short story might be the option for you then you need to practice writing them on a range of topics.
SHOW don’t TELL.
The most important thing to remember is to show your story rather than to tell your story. What’s the difference between the two? Well, "telling" is the reliance on simple exposition: Mary was an old woman. "Showing," on the other hand, is the use of evocative description: Mary moved slowly across the room, her hunched form supported by a polished wooden cane gripped in a gnarled, swollen-jointed hand that was covered by translucent, liver-spotted skin.
Both showing and telling convey the same information — Mary is old — but the former simply states it flat-out, and the latter — well, read the example over again and you'll see it never actually states that fact at all, and yet nonetheless leaves no doubt about it in the reader's mind.
Why is showing better? Two reasons. First, it creates mental pictures for the reader. When reviewers use terms like "vivid," "evocative," or "cinematic" to describe a piece of prose, they really mean the writer has succeeded at showing, rather than merely telling.
Second, showing is interactive and participatory: it forces the reader to become involved in the story, deducing facts (such as Mary's age) for himself or herself, rather than just taking information in passively. Simply – it is more enjoyable for the reader.
Structuring your Short Story
Short Stories generally adhere to the following structure:
Exposition à Development à Crisis à Climax à Resolution
1. Exposition (Introduction):
Establishing setting and characters – create a specific space and time.
a. Describe the place where your story begins.
b. What is life like for people there?
c. Give the year/month/season/time of day or night.
d. Who are your main characters? Give them names.
e. Raise questions for your reader.
Develop the plot with some of the following options:
a. A problem to solve
b. Conflict between characters
c. A quest
d. Have your characters grow or develop in some way.
3. Crisis (Trigger):
Shake-up your story with something surprising…
a. An event out of the control of the protagonist
b. Reveal some interesting facts about your characters so the reader cares about them in some way.
Build up the tension to a dramatic climax
a. Have main characters have to make a critical choice
b. This is the highest point of drama in the story
Bring the story to an end with a satisfactory resolution:
c. Have a reversal in the fortune of the main characters
d. Resolve conflict or problem
e. Give the reader a sense of a proper ending
f. Have a surprising twist that catches the reader off guard.
Limit the breadth of your story.
A novel can occur over millions of years and include a multitude of subplots, a variety of locations, and an army of supporting characters. The main events of a short story should occur in a relatively short period of time (days or even minutes), and you typically won’t be able to develop effectively more than one plot, two or three main characters, and one setting.
Suggested Short Story Reading:
· “The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe.
· "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", by Mark Twain.
· "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", by James Thurber
· "A Sound of Thunder", by Ray Bradbury
· “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut
· "Three Questions", by Leo Tolstoy
· “Man from the South” by Roald Dahl
· “The Nightingale and the Rose” by Oscar Wilde.
· "Brokeback Mountain", by Annie Proulx
· "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", by Philip K. Dick
· “I, Robot", by Issac Asimov (collection)
· "Steps", by Jerzy Kosinski (collection)
Some sample openings:
THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.
Harrison Bergeron – Kurt Vonnegut
'She said that she would dance with me if I brought her red roses,' cried the young Student; 'but in all my garden there is no red rose.' From her nest in the holm-oak tree the Nightingale heard him, and she looked out through the leaves, and wondered.
The Nightingale and the Rose by Oscar Wilde
“We’re going through!” The Commander’s voice was like thin ice breaking. He wore his full-dress uniform, with the heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray eye. “We can’t make it, sir. It’s spoiling for a hurricane, if you ask me.” “I’m not asking you, Lieutenant Berg,” said the Commander. “Throw on the power lights! Rev her up to 8,500! We’re going through!” The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. The Commander stared at the ice forming on the pilot window. He walked over and twisted a row of complicated dials. “Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!” he shouted. “Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!” repeated Lieutenant Berg. “Full strength in No. 3 turret!” shouted the Commander. “Full strength in No. 3 turret!” The crew, bending to their various tasks in the huge, hurtling eight-engined Navy hydroplane, looked at each other and grinned. “The Old Man’ll get us through,” they said to one another. “The Old Man ain’t afraid of Hell!” . . .
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber
TRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.
It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain, but, once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture -- a pale blue eye with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.
The Telltale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe.