Narrative Writing practice: What makes vivid storytelling?
Have you found Tr Rachaels’ Lessons about analysing your essay questions & how to write a good essay beneficial for your narrative writing? Would you like some more practice before your end-of-the-year examination? Tr Rachael has kindly designed a writing practice for you. Read on below 🙂
In Lesson 2, you have learnt how to plan your story on a plot curve and familiarised yourself with the features of a narrative, including enhancing description using sensory details, dialogue and thoughts. This post will illustrate how to use these descriptive techniques to make your story more engaging.
Write about a time when you caused great disappointment to another person. What did you do about the situation?
Let’s analyse this question:
- This question requires you to establish the strongrelationship you have with the person, such that the disappointment you cause to him/her can be considered “great”.
- Think about what a heavy disappointment could be, instead of a petty disagreement. For example, standing the person up because you overslept would be insignificantcompared to spreading rumours about the person in order to get yourself out of trouble.
- The climax of the story would necessarily be the point at which the person is crushed with disappointment. You need to dwell on those few moments and show how “great” it is in vivid detail.
Have a look at the two writing samples about the climax, A and B.
Context: Joey and the narrator are avid online gamers, but Joey is the more competent one. After the narrator encouraged Joey to join a gaming competition, he is asked by his teacher to join as well – to which he agrees, not knowing that this meant taking Joey’s place to represent the school.
Climax Sample A
When he found out that he had not been chosen for the competition, Joey was utterly disappointed. I could see that he was fuming at me when he stepped into class. At that moment, I was filled with guilt for having agreed to join the competition. What had I done?
I was so ashamed and did not know how to face my best friend. I wanted to ask for his forgiveness but was at a loss for words. I really did not want to lose this precious friendship.
Climax Sample B
The devastating disappointment on Joey’s face as he walked into class was palpable. He winced at me with an anger that terrified me. At that moment, it struck me that I had disappointed and hurt him deeply because I had ‘stolen’ his place at the competition.
“Floor, just swallow me whole,” I muttered under my breath. I had betrayed my best friend. This was not just a matter of a forgotten birthday or a broken pencil – I had broken a cardinal* rule of friendship: to respect each other’s wishes over our personal gain. My feeble attempts to explain my behaviour were futile as he was not in the frame of mind to listen to anything I had to say.
*cardinal: core, foundational
(See Corresponding colors)
While the content is similar, B’s description has more sensory details, and the reader can almost feel Joey’s anger in their bones, as the narrator does. Choose strong adjectives like ‘devastating’ and ‘palpable’, and precise verbs like ‘winced’.
Dialogue is used in B to show how ashamed the narrator is, instead of telling it to the reader as A does.
While A contains some of the narrator’s thoughts (eg.“I wanted to ask…”, “I really did not want…”), B makes them more striking by showing how great the disappointment is due to him defying a hallmark of friendship – not putting the other’s interest first. This perspective lends depth to the betrayal.
I hope you can see from this comparison how your descriptions can be enhanced. There are no best descriptions; only better descriptions.
Can you come up with something better than B?
Try writing your own climax using the 3 types of descriptive techniques!
Narrative writing Assignment
Download the pdf below to practice your narrative writing.
Once completed, download the second pdf and compare your answers.
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