What is Narration? Writing Seminar Narration Narration tells a story. Narratives can be fact or fiction. Narratives can be told in first or third person. Like description, narratives can be objective or subjective. The Writer’s Role Third Person In narratives, the writer may be a reporter or recorder of events using the third person: The Ableson Company was founded in 1910 by Frank and George Ableson, both of whom had worked for Union Pacific. Their firm perfected the stem regulator, which became standard equipment on all locomotives by 1920. The San Francisco firm expanded during the Twenties and built facilities in Oakland, St. Louis, Atlanta, New York, and Boston. During the Depression, the Ableson brothers, both suffering from heart disease, sold the firm to National Gear and Brake. Third person narratives may be objective or subjective. The writer’s tone and attitude is developed through the choice of words and details. Biographies, for example, may be favorable or negative. First Person Subjective In first person narratives, the writer is often the main participant or actor, usually focusing on personal reactions to events: Having lived in Manhattan my entire life, I knew nothing about horses. I had never been to a race track or a circus. I never liked Westerns. My only contact with horses was a single carriage ride in Central Park one muggy July afternoon. When my sister invited me to her horse farm in Washington, I offered to earn my keep by helping out. Only then did I realize how delicate those lumbering beasts are. I learned that horses required more care than my fragile-looking but hearty little Bichon Frise. First Person Subjective Not all first person narratives are subjective. Often the writer is an objective reporter of events, an eyewitness recounting his or her observations: I met Frank Minton as soon as he was discharged from the hospital. He felt lucky to be alive. His seatbelt had kept him from going through the windshield, and he had only a swollen cheek and some double-vision to indicate that he had survived a nearly fatal crash. But in the weeks that followed, I began to notice strange after effects. Frank forgot to return phone messages. One afternoon, while writing out payroll checks for his staff, he repeatedly asked me the date. I watched as his pen froze over the checkbook. He would then flip back to check the spelling of a friend’s name. At the piano, he played the same bar over and over again, seemingly unable to proceed to the next. It would be months before any of us were willing to accept the painful fact this his jazz career was over. The narrator may serve as an objective eyewitness or a subjective commentator, injecting personal opinion and interpretation. Focus In narration, it is important to have a clear thesis or focus. Too often, students attempt to tell a lengthy story worthy of a novel. Trying to relate a long, complex story in a short paper can have the effect of watching a video in fast forward. Unless you are writing an accident report, there is no reason to relate every incident or detail that happens. Focus only on major events or themes. There is no reason for this student to clutter her paper with meaningless details. ***It is better to think of your narrative as a scene from a movie, rather than the whole story. Possible Topics A childhood event that shaped your attitudes about a person, school, sport, etc. An incident that exposed you to danger. Your first day at SHA or a job. The key play of an important game. An incident that caused you to make any kind of decision. A first experience. Getting Started Developing a narrative can be challenging. You may be unsure about which details to include or how to begin and end the essay. Define your purpose Before rushing into telling a story, ask yourself what the goal of your narrative will be. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want your readers to understand or appreciate? Clarifying your response will help you determine which details are relevant and which events should be highlighted. Limit The Chain of Events Keeping the desired length of the narrative in mind, limit the narrative to a key scene or scenes. Do not feel obligated to summarize everything that happened. Sketch Out a Timeline Before writing, you may find it helpful to sketch out a timeline of events, placing events in chronological order. This may help you develop a fuller picture of the narrative and prompt your memory. Starting and Ending Some narratives may have clear beginnings or dramatic finales. In other instances, you may have to decide when the narrative starts or what would make a logical conclusion. Flashbacks and Flashforwards Narratives do not have to be related in a straight chronological pattern. Flashbacks can be effective in introducing background information, so that the opening can be more dramatic. Add Dialogue In writing a narrative, you may be tempted to retell a story or relate an event by putting everything in your own words. Using someone’s actual words can speed the process of telling the story and allow people to speak for themselves. Their personality, attitudes, social background, age, and lifestyles can be reflected by their tone and choice of words.
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