Getting the Big Picture Beginning: identifies the problem and grabs the reader’s attention. Middle: use a variety of details to show what happened. Realistic dialogue keeps the narrative moving. End: explains how the experience changed the writer.
Traits of Narrative Writing Focus and Coherence : Focus on the prompt. Grab your reader’s attention at the beginning. Sustain your focus by moving the action forward. Create an effective ending that puts he experience in perspective. Organization : Present the experience in a logical order. Present actions and details chronologically. Include transitions to move the reader from one idea to the next. Avoid unnecessary repetition. Development of Ideas : Make sure you include events and details that add to the overall story. Use actions, and sensory details, and dialogue that support your overall feeling about the experience. Voice : Engage your audience with a personal voice appropriate for your topic. Make your dialogue sound realistic and believable. Use verbs that set the tone and have the right connotation. Conventions : Write sentences of varied length and structure. Be sure that your grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling are correct.
Gathering Details Actions: relate what you and others did in a situation. (Checking fences, spotted fire, rant to call 911) Sensory Details: show what you saw, smelled, heard, tasted, or touched. (smelled smoke, saw flames, tired legs, listened to voice mail) Personal Thoughts: reveal what you thought during your experience. (Get help! The fire could spread to the barn! I’m all alone!)
Building Narrative Suspense Start with a problem (conflict). Work in actions that respond to the problem. Build toward the climax or high point.
Adding Dialogue Show a speaker’s personality Without Dialogue: I reluctantly got involved with a fundraiser. With Realistic Dialogue: “Sure, okay. I’ll do this Hope thing.” I sighed… Keep the action moving Without Dialogue: Kendra said that I could turn in my pledge sheet, which was totally empty of pledges. With Realistic Dialogue: “You can hand in your pledge sheet now, if you want,” she said. Suddenly I looked at my empty sheet. That’s how I was feeling inside, empty. Add information Without Dialogue: I discovered that Kendra’s mom was battling cancer. With Realistic Dialogue: “I didn’t know—” I mumbled. “It’s okay. She’s going to beat it.” Kendra pulled out her pledge sheet.
Using Transitions Transitions move the reader smoothly through your writing by signaling time shifts. Transition Words and Phrases: About After After a while As soon as Before Besides But During First Later Meanwhile Next Now Recently Second So far Soon Then This time Today Tomorrow Until Until now Usually When Whenever While Yesterday
Do I show rather than tell my narrative? Telling: It looked foggy along the river. Showing: The fog lay like a thick, gray blanket covering the river valley. Note: Sensory details—including a simile, or an unusual comparison using like or as—create a strong image. Be sure that your narrative contains enough action, details, and dialogue to show rather than tell. Remember that using figurative language, such as the simile above, is one way to make your sensory details especially interesting.
Have I included enough specific details? The reader should have a complete picture of your experience. Use the 5 W’s and H—Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?– to learn whether you have covered the experience thoroughly enough.
Does my dialogue sound realistic? Your dialogue sounds realistic if it makes the speaker seem believable and interesting. Dialogue should reveal the speaker’s personality. Examples: Eager Angry Bubbly Cautious Suspicious Awkward Hopeful Bored Bold Confused Elegant Worried
Examples of Dialogue Flat Dialogue: “I just heard that I was chosen for the debate team.” Realistic Dialogue that Shows Personality: “This rocks! I made the debate team!” (eager) “How did this happen? I never tried out for the debate team…” (suspicious)
Have I used specific verbs? You know you have used specific verbs when your sentences relate clear actions. General Verbs: Move; look Specific Verbs: Shift, wobble, dart, amble, dawdle, sneak Gaze, stare, gawk, study, peek, view
How can I vary the way sentences begin? Gerund: Sprinting home at full speed was the only natural reaction to such a scare. Participle: Embarrassed by my unstylish new shoes, I was not looking forward to school the next day. Infinitive: To be the best team in our district, we practiced hard every day.
Have I punctuated dialogue correctly? Use a comma to set off a speaker’s exact words from the rest of the sentence. “Bob Taylor, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” said Melissa Moore. Place periods and commas inside quotation marks. “Hello,” Bob said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Place an exclamation point or question mark outside the quotation mark when it punctuates the main sentence, and inside when it punctuates the quotation. What if someone said to you, “You’ve won a million dollars!”? I would say, “Are you kidding me?”
Grammar Checklist Do I use the correct forms of verbs (had gone, not had went)? Do my pronouns agree with their antecedents? Do I use a variety of correctly structured sentences that clearly communicate ideas? Do I start all my sentences with capital letters? Do I capitalize all proper nouns? Do I use end punctuation after all my sentences? Do I use commas after longer introductory word groups? Do I use commas correctly in compound and complex sentences? Do I punctuate my dialogue correctly? Have I spelled all my words correctly? Have I consulted a dictionary to determine or check the spellings of similar words my spell-checker would have missed (compliment, complement; to, too, two; its, it’s)?