By Gwyn E. d’Pouh Green
Are you in the mood to kill your brother-in-law but he is a big, mean, SOB and you aren’t sure you can? Are short on bond money? Can’t run very fast anymore? Then narrative writing might be just what you need. Why not write a narrative about killing your bro? Change up the names and all that. You can even slow narrate the gory parts if you want to and it makes you feel better. In fact, you can do anything you can imagine in narrative writing. Once your brother—in-law is written out of the picture, you can massacre your whole family if they need it but only in your imagination of course! Simply put, narrative writing is writing that tells a story, and it is up to the writer to decide what that story will be.
There are several types of narrative writing that you might use to tell your story: historical, biographical, and personal narrative, which is divided into the nonexpository personal narrative and the expository personal narrative. Factual narratives tell what actually happened while fictional narratives tell what the writer imagined happened. Examples of factual narrative are news stories (some of them anyway) and articles in magazines and professional journals. Examples of fictional narratives range from simple fairy tales told to children at bedtime all the way to the alibi you gave your partner for being out late last weekend, and are often just as fantastic. Read ahead and learn which narrative type will best convey the mayhem and savagery of your own story.
Historical narrative, then relates past events and treats them as objectively as possible, maintaining a sense of distance through use of tone and telling the story of these events with exact, accurate historical detail.
An example of historical narrative from follows.
“The Matterhorn, located on the Swiss-Italian border, is one of the world’s most famous mountains. However, its history, as far as mountain climbing is concerned, is fairly recent and fairly brief.”
The biographical narrative is of course a story about a person’s life. Stories told in this form usually focus on three things: 1. when something happened to the subject of the narrative; 2. where the subject was when the event occurred; and 3. why the event was important to the subject’s life.
This sample of biographical narrative is written by Richard H, Leggett about Joe Louis:
“Joe Louis, one of America’s most famous boxers, was born Joseph Louis Barrow on May 13, 1914 near Lafayette, Alabama. In 1921, he and his family moved to Detroit, Michigan. In 1933 and 1934, Louis entered the National A. A. U. boxing tournaments; he won the light-heavyweight title in 1934.”
The personal, or autobiographical, narrative has two general types, expository and nonexpository. Note that dialog, with its powerful ability to characterize and evoke place and time, is a useful tool in narration, adding interest and urgency to the story. If you have an “ear” for dialog, then use it, including such speech tags and vernacular as you can recall. The nonexpository personal narrative tells a story’s events in a linear fashion, but still needs a controlling idea to bind it together.
An example of nonexpository personal narrative taken from the larger work “Bells in the Night” by George Allen Simpson.
“A telephone ringing at about 3:00am has become such a thing with me over the years that I have developed an unconscious ritual in answering Ma Bell’s constant reminder of the joys of technological convenience. I am usually conscious after the first ring. My first thought is always that maybe my wife will answer the thing and break a twenty-year habit of sleeping though everything from two tornadoes to a small-scale war.”
This following example of expository narrative highlights the differences between it and the nonexpository personal narrative. The expository narrative tells not only what happened as the nonexpository narrative does, but the expository narrative also sets out an idea to be developed. Now, typically, idea development is best accomplished with a more formal writing type such as by example or by illustration. However, since the idea is personal and may be developed by informal or general points, the expository personal narrative form is appropriate.
This passage written by Jerry Winger called “the Mountain Climber” is a good example of this sort of personal narrative that tells a story and develops an idea:
“In the face of reality, dreams often change. One of my oldest dreams was to climb a mountain and to experience firsthand what goes through a person’s mind after he ‘conquers’ a mountain. One bright sunshiny morning, many months ago, I arranged to go mountain climbing with two of my friends. Envisioning myself on top of Mt. Everest, yodeling into the crisp wind, I never had a twinge of fear.”
Mind that you choose the right type of narrative to fit your story. Your idea are precious and unique. Rhetorical is simply a vehicle for your thoughts. Whatever the manner in which you choose tell your story, no matter what your story is, no matter who your story incriminates or may upset, tell it. Writing is the most power occupation of human beings.
Since narrative writing tells a story, it needs a lot of action, and it thrives on verbs, so use as many as you like. Topics for narrative writing vary widely since nearly any good story is a narrative. When brainstorming to come up with topics, try for topics that are vivid in your mind. If you recall an event vividly, you have a better chance at retelling it well.
For your edification, here are a few narrative writing prompts to get your narrative started.
- My brother-in-law had to die because. . .
- I learned that the saying that goes, “A friend will help you, but a real friend will help you hide the bodies” is true when. . .
- One time this guy told me that my car wouldn’t go over 85mph, and boy oh boy, was he ever. . .
- When Conestoga wagons full of settlers were rolling across the Kansas tallgrass prairie. . .
- I will never forget the night when I . . .
- The moment in life that I will never forget was when. . .
- My most famous last words were. . .
- My husband/wife/partner has this crazy idea that. . .and it got us in big trouble when. . .
- I have this uncle who. . .
- My friend took me to see. . .
- I didn’t know it was illegal at the time, but. . .
- My mother always told me. . .
- I knew there were risks, but I . . .