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A Narrative Checklist


Today's Snack: Since we're talking about a "checklist," why not have some Chex Mix? It almost rhymes. . . . As for something to drink with it, check out some sweet grape juice to make that salty, spicy Chex Mix go down well.





Print out at least the checklist, below, in this Treat for each student

Pencil or pen | piece of lined paper


A "narrative" is a story which you "narrate," or tell, in writing. The story is usually about an experience, event, or a whole sequence of events. You can jump between fact and imaginative fiction in many narratives. It's a creative way to write.


The purpose of a narrative is to make a point - to teach an important fact that the reader didn't know before, or express a feeling that the reader will appreciate sharing. That point should probably be revealed in the beginning, so that the reader can follow along with the story until somehow the point is brought out again in the ending.


At the end of a narrative, your reader should be able to answer this question: "So what?" Your topic should be new and interesting to your reader, without the content either being too easy or too hard for your audience to understand.


Your reader should get the point of your narrative without much effort, and then you know you've done a good job.


It's really important for you to remember the two E's of narrative writing:





You are supposed to reveal feelings in a narrative, and to try to touch other people's feelings as well. They are supposed to feel moved - to respond to you - to change their feelings and behaviors because of what you have written.


You also are supposed to capture and keep your reader's interest with your engaging, entertaining storytelling style. For most of you, that's the easy part!


At the end of your narrative, your reader should say, "Wow! I didn't know that! That's really cool (or terrible, depending on your narrative's purpose)!" or "Wow! I wish I'd been there!" or "Wow! That makes me want to do what the narrator asked me to."


You want your narrative to have what they call "impact" - punch, importance, zest - just like YOU!


It's probably a good idea to limit your narrative to ONE basic point, experience, event, idea, emotion, feeling or sensation, so you can zero in. Don't try to cram everything you think and feel about the topic into one narrative. It just won't all fit.


The idea is to write a narrative the way that you would tell a friend the story. Therefore, a narrative should sound like YOU - in your "voice" - your style - your most typical mode of communication.


Note that many narratives are written "in the first person." When you are asked to write a "personal narrative," then that means YOU. You are the narrator, and you can use "I", "me" and "my" to refer to yourself.


Other narratives are written "in the third person." In that case, you write it about someone else, whether it's a real person, or a character you made up. In that case, you use the person's real name, or the character's made-up name, and "he," "she," "his," "her" and so on. You are still narrating the story, but it's on behalf of someone else, and you can use THEIR "voice," or style of communication, if you wish.


Your narrative should include rich details about the three basic parts of any story. Again, you probably shouldn't have a lot of characters, too complicated of a plot, or too detailed of a setting, or your story may bog down:






Usually, you will make the story complete by including the 5 W's and H:







. . . and



Sometimes you can answer all of those questions in one sentence, or two or three. Many times, you answer "who," "what," "when" and "where" in the beginning of a narrative, answer "how" in the middle, and wait until the ending to explain "why."


It doesn't matter what order you include these details, but the order in which you tell the story should make sense. It doesn't have to go in chronological, or "time," order - based on what happened first, in the middle, and at the last - but that is a good structure.


Some people like to give away the ending of a story in the beginning, in an interesting way that makes the reader want to see how that key point came to be. Other people like to keep the reader in suspense, and not reveal the main point or conclusion until the ending.


No matter what order you choose for your story, it should have these three parts:


Beginning - introduction, action starts, problem is presented

Middle - action peaks to a climax

End - problem is solved, action has a result, conclusion made


Every word should work hard to "paint the picture" that the reader sees. Nouns should be specific, and verbs should be vivid.


It should be as if the person who is reading the story is able to "relive it" with you, like an eyewitness who saw and felt everything you did. You should address the reader's five senses, as much as possible, in order to communicate the whole event or experience - how exactly (described in your own special way) did things look? What could you hear? What smells were around?


That's why dialogue - conversation - is important in a narrative. Even just one line, or a word in two, in quotation marks, makes the reader feel a part of the story. It gives the reader the feeling of being there and overhearing what was said - a "bird's-eye view" of the action in your narrative.


Transitions are important in narratives. They keep the story moving forward to its conclusion. You can start paragraphs with words like "First," "Then," "Next," "After that," and "Finally" to move from one segment of the narrative to the next.


Why don't you think about the most memorable moment of your life - maybe just the most memorable moment of your day so far today - and plan a narrative with this checklist:



Title: ___________________________________________




The Point (So What?):




Emotion(s) the reader will feel:




Entertainment - keeping a high level of interest:




Voice - what specific personality and style:




First person or third person:








































Action: beginning




Action: middle




Action: end




Five senses:












What Makes the Reader Say "Wow":






Once you have filled out this checklist, you are ready to write the most rockin', sockin' narrative in the history of the world! Write it in at least five paragraphs on the piece of lined paper provided. You can draw a picture to go with if you'd like, once you have at least five paragraphs done, with a beginning, middle and end.


Which reminds me . . . the "end," or goal, of writing a narrative is to inform, entertain and convince the reader. To do that successfully, your writing has to be accurate and clear.


So be sure to correct your spelling, fix your grammar, use punctuation properly, space your words correctly, don't have scratch-outs . . . because no matter how powerful and meaningful the ideas in your narrative may be, it'll fall flat on its face, and you will lose all the influence and credibility you worked so hard for, if it is riddled with mistakes.


But don't let a little detail like accuracy keep you from enjoying writing narratives! After all . . . if you don't screw up a thing, your writing will really sing!


By Susan Darst Williams Writing 2010


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