What is Narrative Writing?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2018
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Narrative writing focuses on telling a story. This may mean telling a fictional story — one that is made up — or it may mean telling a real-life story in such a way that the author follows a plot structure. It can also take the form of an essay, in which the author will use a personal story to prove a point or state an argument. The forms vary greatly because it is largely a creative endeavor; novels, short stories, poems, blog posts, and essays can all take the form of a narrative, and while the form of the writing may change, the function of telling a story remains the same.

Much of narrative writing can be done on a personal level — that is, the stories written do not necessarily need to be shared with others. The value of such writing becomes evident as a catharsis of sorts: authors may choose to write about a troubling situation to help themselves work through it or understand it better, for example. As a tool in the public domain, this form of writing helps the author connect with an audience to prove a point, state an argument, or address an important issue. A narrative can set the stage for a particular issue, and the story does not necessarily have to be about the author himself. He can, for example, write an account of a friend or acquaintance's experiences in a war-torn country without having lived through the experience.


Narratives can also be fictional events that follow a plot structure that includes introduction or exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution or denouement. This structure is sometimes known as the plot pyramid or story arc, and it ensures all relevant parts of the story get told. Characterization, or developing a character into a believable and almost real person, is important to the story, as is developing setting, tone, and relevant themes.

The most common forms of narrative writing include short stories and novels. These two genres generally follow story arcs, and in novels, several characters and settings may be developed. A short story will usually contain fewer characters and settings, as such stories are designed to be easily digestible pieces of writing that can be read relatively quickly. Novels are significantly longer and offer the writer ample opportunity to deal with complex themes, characters, and interactions. Poems can also be narrative, though the writer is generally afforded even less space to tell a story than a short story. Longer, narrative poems, however, may run on for several pages, and some are even novel-length.


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Post 2

While @Sequoia's method of just diving right in is definitely valuable for getting some material together, it's also important to remember that narrative writing follows a structure and if you have a good outline which illustrates what happens in each part of the story it'll be a lot easier to write. I've even made flow charts in the past with rough notes which I then fleshed out into a full story as I was writing it.

Post 1

I find narrative writing to be very cathartic. Sometimes it's good to just start writing and see what comes out, but I particularly like collecting key phrases and then using them as narrative writing prompts. It might just be a short phrase like "all that matters" or something abstract like "deep breath", but whatever it is I try to turn it into a story somehow using whatever images it conjures up in my head.

Often the hardest thing to do when you're writing is to get started and the advice I'd recommend in that case would be simply to start anywhere. It's not going to be perfect. Good writing takes time and practice, just like any other creative endeavor.

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