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.