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As a mode of expository writing, the narrative approach, more than any
other, offers writers a chance to think and write about themselves. We all
have experiences lodged in our memories which are worthy of sharing
with readers. Yet sometimes they are so fused with other memories that a
lot of the time spent in writing narrative is in the prewriting stage.
In this stage, writers first need to select an incident worthy of writing
about and, second, to find relevance in that incident. To do this,
writers might ask themselves what about the incident provided new
insights or awareness. Finally, writers must dredge up details which
will make the incident real for readers.
Principles of Writing Narrative Essays
Once an incident is chosen, the writer should keep three principles in mind.
- Remember to involve readers in the story. It is much more interesting to actually recreate an incident for readers than to simply tell about it.
- Find a generalization which the story supports. This is the only way the writer's personal experience will take on meaning for readers. This generalization does not have to encompass humanity as a whole; it can
concern the writer, men, women, or children of various ages and backgrounds.
- Remember that although the main component of a narrative is the story, details must be carefully selected to support, explain, and enhance the story.
Conventions of Narrative Essays
In writing your narrative essay, keep the following conventions in mind.
- Narratives are generally written in the first person, that is, using "I." However, third person ("he," "she," or "it") can also be used.
- Narratives rely on concrete, sensory details to convey their point.
These details should create a unified, forceful effect, a dominant
impression. More information on sensory details is available.
- Narratives, as stories, should include these story conventions: a plot, including setting and characters; a climax; and an ending.
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© 1995, 1996, 1997 The Write Place
This handout was written by Judith Kilborn for the Write
Place, St. Cloud State University and may be copied for educational
purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright
notice and the name of the writer; if you revise it, please add your name to
the list of writers.
Last update: 28 September 1997