The Narrative Essay The Narrative

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The Narrative Essay

The Narrative

  • The writer who narrates tells a story to make a point.
  • The writer who describes evokes the senses to create a picture.
  • Ultimately, the most poignant narrative incorporates both of these strategies.
  • The narrator’s goal is to write a detailed account of some memorable experience.

Purpose --Exposition

  • Introduce or illustrate a complicated subject.
  • Often, writers use narration and description as their primary method when analyzing an issue or theme.
  • Ultimately, most writers choose narration as the method by which to explore a personal experience.
  • Within your personal experience, you will want to explain what happened, what it felt like, why it happened, and perhaps why everyone should reach the same conclusion that you did.
  • Most writers who use narration and description are those who write autobiography, history, and fiction.

Audience—Techniques and Development

  • Consider how much you will need to tell your readers and how much you will need to show them.
  • Remember that someone who reads your work may know similar stories or have had similar experiences, but they do not know YOUR story.
  • You will need to consider—Does your audience need to know every detail of your story, only brief summaries of certain parts, or some mixture of detail and summary?
  • If your subject is unusual, your readers will need a lot of information to understand the novel experience you are going to describe.
  • If your subject is familiar to most people, you readers will need few technical details to understand your subject.
  • No matter what---your audience WILL expect you to give them new images and insights that create a fresh vision of your subject.

Strategies—Organization and Cohesion

  • Remember that an experience and an essay about that experience are NOT THE SAME THING.
  • When you have any experience, no matter how long it lasts, your memory of that experience is going to be disorganized and poorly defined, but the essay you write about that experience must have a purpose and be sharply focused.

Strategies—Central Conflict (Exposition)

  • Begin by locating the central conflict.
  • It may be:
      • A. Between the writer and himself.
      • B. Between the writer and others.
      • C. Between the writer and the environment (the larger world).

Strategies—Plot (Organization / Cohesion)

  • When the conflict has been identified, arrange the action so that your readers know how the conflict started, how it developed, and how it was resolved.
  • This sequence of events is called plot.

Strategies—Pace (Style and Conventions)

  • When you have established the beginning, middle, and end of the plot, you can establish how each event in those sections should be paced. Pace is the speed at which the writer recounts events.
    • Sometimes you can narrate events quickly by omitting details, compressing time, and summarizing experience.
    • Other times, you may want to pace events more slowly and carefully because they are vital to your purpose.

Strategies—Selection of Details (Style and Conventions)

  • Select your story telling details carefully. Don’t assume that adding more details is the same as selecting details carefully. You must select those special details that satisfy the needs of your readers and further your purpose in the essay.
  • Some Types of Details:
  • a. Objective/ Technical Details—These will help your reader to understand your subject.
  • b. Subjective/ Impressionistic Details—Appeal to your reader’s senses.
  • c. Figurative Images/ Dominant Expression—The careful presentation of details to explore a specific pattern or main concept.

Strategies—Point of View (Exposition)

  • You will need to determine your point of view: the person and position of the narrator (point) and the attitude toward the experience being presented (view).
  • a. Choose your position by deciding how close you want to be to the action in time and space. You may want to be involved in the action or view it from the position of the observer, or you may tell about the events as they are happening or many years after they have taken place.
  • b. Create your attitude—how you view the events you intend to present and interpret—by the person and position you choose for writing your essay. (i.e. anger, reverent, perplexed, and ambivalent).


  • Remember to provide a conclusion for your narrative that provides a reflection on or resolution of the events.

Narration and Description—Overall Points.

  • Focus your narrative on the “story” in your story—that is, focus on the conflict that defines the plot.
  • Vary the pace of your narrative so that you can summarize some events quickly and render others as fully realized scenes.
  • Supply evocative details to help your readers experience the dramatic development of your narrative.
  • Establish a consistent point of view so that your readers know how you have positioned yourself in your story.
  • Represent the events in your narrative so that your story makes its point.

Narration and Description Essay Topics

  • The topics on the next slides were generated from the following web resource:

Narration and Description Essay Topics

  • Think about how you spend Saturdays during the school year. Pick out a particularly memorable Saturday, and explain exactly what you did that day and why it was especially memorable.

Narration and Description Essay Topics

  • Have you ever been stranded in a place you didn't want to be?

Narration and Description Essay Topics

  • We all have memories connected to our experiences. Think about an experience you feel you'll always remember. Try to picture the time, the place, and the people involved. Try to remember everything you can about this experience. Write about the experience you remember. Be sure to include enough details so that your reader can share your experience. Show why this memory stands out for you.

Narration and Description Essay Topics

  • Weather can affect your life. Think about a time in your life when you have been affected by some kind of weather. Tell about your experience so that other young people can understand what it was like.

Narration and Description Essay Topics

  • Because you have been sick, out of town, or working on other homework, you didn't have as much time to study for an important test as you needed. Think of a specific test that you took that you felt unprepared for and narrate the events. Your paper should help readers understand what it felt like to be unprepared.

Narration and Description Essay Topics

  • Think of an experience when you realized that you suddenly understood an idea, a skill, or a concept you had been struggling with. Write a narrative that tells the story of your movement toward understanding. Your paper should help readers understand how you felt to struggle with the idea or skill and then to understand.

Assignment Details

  • Choose one of the aforementioned essay topics, and write a narrative essay, based on the components that we examined previously.
  • Examine the “narrative writing ruuuuubbbrrrriiccccccc” and work to make sure that your writing corresponds to those components.
  • Keep your narratives fairly brief. 2-3 pages. NO MORE THAN 3 pages.
  • Essays are due on 11/26. Hard Copy is due in class; staple your work at home.
  • submission is required by 11/25 at midnight.
  • We will be working on these essays in the computer lab on 11/22, and in the classroom on 11/25. Be prepared to conference with me on one of those dates. See “Teacher—Student Conference” Ruuuuuuuubbbbbrrrrriiiicccccccc.

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