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
Print out at least the
checklist, below, in this Treat for each student
Pencil or pen | piece
of lined paper
"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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
No matter what order you
choose for your story, it should have these three parts:
- introduction, action starts, problem is presented
action peaks to a climax
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
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
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
□ The Point (So
the reader will feel:
- keeping a high level of interest:
□ Voice - what specific personality and style:
□ First person
or third person:
□ 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!