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The Narration Mode


   To narrate is to tell a story, to relate a sequence of events that are linked in time; “to illuminate the stages leading to a result”


   When used as primary means of developing essay, relates a sequence of events that led to new knowledge or had notable outcome.


   The point (what the reader takes away) determines the selection of events, the amount of detail, and arrangement.


   We see this mode in speeches, histories, biographies, autobiographies, personal letters, diaries, journals, anecdotes in general.


Possibilities for arrangement:

   Straight chronological sequence (easiest, good for short pieces, and those with standard plot development); this also intensifies the drama if you withhold the “thesis”


   The final event (self-revelation) might come first followed by events leading up to it



   Entire story might be summarized and then relayed in detail


   Flashbacks to recall events whose significance wouldn’t be clear otherwise



   In medias res!


Whatever the order, the ending should leave readers with the desired effect/ impression.



Point of view:

- Pronouns and verb tense need to be consistent - - Narrative time is not real time (but whatever chosen it must be consistent!)


   If first person, then it will be more subjective and will show the writer’s feelings.

   If third person (nonparticipant), then it will be more objective (unbiased).


Key question: Why was the incident or experience significant? What does it teach or illustrate?


Other key elements to consider:

   Sometimes it helps to draft the story first if the experience is fresh.


   Scene vs. summary



   Dialogue adds immediacy and realism (as long as it advances the story).


o     Relates not only what was said, but how (speaker’s voice) and with what expression.


   Transitions should be informative, such as afterward, earlier, for an hour, in that time, the next morning, a week later.


Journalistic questions to consider:

   Who was involved?

   What happened?

   When did it happen?

   Where did it happen?

   Why did it happen?

   How did it happen?

(as with description, choice of detail determines an impression and should reflect the understanding the author wishes to relay to the audience)


When revising, consider:

A variety of sentence openings and combined simple sentences


   Does your assignment call for narration?

   Does your essay’s thesis communicate the significance of the events you discuss?

   Have you included enough specific detail?

   Have you varied your sentence structure?

   Is the order of events clear to readers?

   Have you varied sentence openings to avoid monotony?

   Do your transitions link events in time?


If a handout is available online (e.g., a newspaper article) I might include the appropriate link to the information students need on this page.