2 Organizing Your Song

narrative will need to:

  • Describe a personal experience using sensory detail.
  • Critically reflect on the learning experience.
  • Communicate the significance of this experience to an audience.

What is this genre about? Narratives tell stories in clear, descriptive, chronological order and convey the significance of a person’s experience. Narratives have a plot, characters, action, and a theme. Most narratives are written about major events that follow a timeline and often have strong conclusions that help to resolve the conflict and reiterate the theme. Vivid and sensory details enhance the message of the narrative.

What are the expectations? Readers expect narratives to be focused in scope and have a specific purpose. Because readers are so familiar with storytelling in their lives, they expect to read detailed descriptions of specific scenes from a person’s experience and relate those experiences to a greater theme or point of significance. Writers can meet reader expectations by including vivid details about the experience and relating the narrative to something larger than itself.

What are the elements?

At a minimum, a narrative should include:

  • A beginning, middle, and end
  • A main character, perhaps others as well
  • A setting in time and place
  • Motivated (or caused) action
  • Supports a thesis, controlling idea, or theme

How do I organize a narrative?

The two most common styles of narratives are the “essay” and “short story” forms. The essay form has an introduction and conclusion that frame the key events of the story. Alternatively is in medias res, which is Latin for “in the midst of things.” This form works much like a movie or television drama, diving into a critical situation as it is happening in a chain of events. The narrative then continues sequentially, and any back-story is provided as flashback or explanation as the story evolves. Your instructor should identify the preferred style.

In either narrative style, the body of the essay is organized by key event or action. This is where inexperienced writers can get confused and ask when to begin a new paragraph. Paragraphs shift at changes in place or action.

Narratives are sequenced in a variety of ways, most commonly chronological order. However, other sequences exist, including final event first, summary opening, and flashback. Place is also important in the narrative.

Major narrative events are most often conveyed in chronological order, the order in which events unfold from first to last. Stories typically have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and these events are typically organized by time. However, sometimes it can be effective to begin with an exciting moment from the  of the story (“flash-forward”) or a pivotal event from the past (“flash-back”) before returning to a chronological narration. Certain transitional words and phrases aid in keeping the reader oriented in the sequencing of a story.

The following are the other basic components of a narrative:

  • Plot: The events as they unfold in sequence.
  • Characters: The people who inhabit the story and move it forward. Typically, there are minor characters and main characters. The minor characters generally play supporting roles to the main character, or the protagonist.
  • Conflict: The primary problem or obstacle that unfolds in the plot that the protagonist must solve or overcome by the end of the narrative. The way in which the protagonist resolves the conflict of the plot results in the theme of the narrative.
  • Theme: The ultimate message the narrative is trying to express; it can be either explicit or implicit.


3.8 Rhetorical Modes of Writing




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