Narrative Conventions to Make Story Writing and Analysis StrongerJun 29,22
Strong narratives contain certain conventions that help to make them more interesting and engaging. By understanding and using these conventions, writers can create stories that are more likely to resonate with readers.
Some of the most important narrative conventions include:
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- Characterisation: Creating believable and relatable characters is essential to writing a strong story. Characters should be complex and three-dimensional, with their own wants, needs, fears and goals.
Here are some tips to come up with great characters:
- Give your characters flaws and imperfections. No one is perfect, and neither should your characters be. By making them relatable and human, readers will be more invested in their journey.
- Make your characters active. Characters who are always reacting to the events around them are more interesting than those who just go through the motions. Active characters make things happen, and readers want to see that.
- Give your characters a goal. What do they want? What are they striving for? Having a goal gives your character something to fight for and makes the story more suspenseful.
- Make your characters unpredictable. No one likes a predictable character, so mix things up and keep readers guessing.
- Plot: A well-crafted plot will keep readers engaged from beginning to end. Plots should be unpredictable yet logical, with a series of twists and turns that lead to a satisfying conclusion.
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To create a great plot:
- Start with a hook. The first few sentences of your story should be attention-grabbing and make readers want to find out more.
- Build suspense. Keep the reader guessing by introducing new elements that raise the stakes and add to the sense of anticipation.
- Create conflict. Conflict is essential to any good story, as it gives the characters something to strive against.
- Resolve the conflict. All stories need a resolution, so make sure to tie up all the loose ends and give readers a satisfying ending.
- Setting: The setting of a story can be just as important as the characters and plot. A well-chosen setting can help to create an atmosphere and ambience that enhances the story.
A great setting for a story should:
- Be well-developed. The setting should be fleshed out and believable, with enough detail to bring it to life for readers.
- Be integral to the story. The setting should be more than just a backdrop; it should play a role in the events of the story and help to drive the plot forward.
- Be evocative. The best settings are those that stay with readers long after they’ve finished the story. Choose a setting that will create an emotional response in readers and leave a lasting impression.
- Structure: The structure of a story is how it is told. There are many different ways to structure a story, but all should have a clear beginning, middle and end.
Some of the story structures you could use include:
- Chronological: This is the most straightforward way to tell a story, and it is often used in narratives that are based on true events. The story unfolds in a linear fashion, with events occurring in the order in which they actually happened.
- Non-chronological: This is a more creative way to structure a story, and it allows you to play with time. Events in the story can be presented out of order, or you can use flashbacks and flash-forwards to add intrigue.
- Multiple viewpoints: This is a popular structure for novels, as it allows you to explore the events of the story from different perspectives. You can use this to create suspense or to reveal information slowly, drip-feeding it to readers.
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- Syntax: The way in which a story is written can have a big impact on how it is received. The good syntax will make a story easier to read and understand, while bad syntax can make it more difficult.
The best way to play with syntaxes is to:
- Use short sentences. Short sentences are easier to read and understand, and they can be used to create a sense of urgency or tension.
- Use long sentences. Longer sentences can be used for description or to slow the pace of the story down. They can also be used to create a more dreamlike quality.
- Use different sentence types. A mixture of different sentence types will keep a story interesting and easy to read. You can use declarative, interrogative, exclamatory and imperative sentences to add variety.
- Use active voice. Active voice is more direct and engaging than passive voice, so it is often used in stories. It can also help to make a story more exciting.
- Use strong verbs. Verbs are an important part of any sentence, and using strong verbs will add impact to your writing. Choose verbs that are descriptive and specific, and avoid weak or bland verbs.
- Tone: The tone of a story is the overall feeling or mood that it conveys. The tone can be light-hearted or serious, happy or sad, etc.
The tone of a story is often established in the opening scenes, so it is important to get this right. The tone should be consistent throughout the story, and it should be appropriate for the subject matter.
Some of the ways to set the tone of a story include:
- Use of language. The way in which the story is written can have a big impact on the tone. Choose your words carefully to create the desired tone.
- Use of description. The way in which you describe the setting and characters can also help to set the tone.
- Use of dialogue. Dialogue can be used to great effect to establish the tone of a story. The way in which the characters speak will give clues as to the overall tone.
- Use of symbols. Symbols can be used to represent different ideas or concepts, and they can be used to create a certain tone.
- Use of music. Music can be used to create a particular atmosphere or feeling, and it can help to set the tone of a story.
- Style: The style of a story is how it is written, and includes things like the point of view, the level of detail, and the use of literary devices.
Some popular stylistic elements that you could use in your story include:
- First-person point of view. This is where the story is narrated by one of the characters, and it can be used to create a sense of intimacy.
- Second-person point of view. This is where the reader is addressed directly and can be used to create a more immersive experience.
- Third-person point of view. This is where the story is narrated by an omniscient narrator and can be used to create a more objective tone.
- Stream of consciousness. This is where the thoughts and feelings of the characters are conveyed as they happen, and can be used to create a sense of realism.
- Dialogue: Good dialogue can bring a story to life and make the characters more relatable. Dialogue should be natural and realistic, and should further the plot or develop the characters.
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Dialogue writing is a difficult-to-master art, but there are a few things you can keep in mind to make it easier:
- Use short dialogue. Long blocks of dialogue can be difficult to read, and can often be boring.
- Use action beats. Action beats are brief descriptions of what the characters are doing, and they can help to break up the dialogue and add interest.
- Use body language. Body language can be used to convey a lot of information, and it can help to make the dialogue more believable.
- Use subtext. The subtext is what the characters are really saying internally, as opposed to what they are saying outwardly. It can be used to add depth and interest to the dialogue.
- Pace: The pace of a story is the speed at which it is told. A story can be fast-paced or slow-paced, and the pace should be appropriate for the type of story being told.
The pace of a story can be affected by things like the length of the scenes, the use of description, and the use of dialogue.
- Emotive language: Using emotive language can help to engage the reader on an emotional level. Emotive language can be used to describe characters, settings, or events in a way that evokes an emotional response.
Some of the examples of emotive language that you could use include:
- Words that evoke the senses. Words that describe smells, tastes, sounds, and textures can help to create a more vivid picture for the reader, such as “the sweet smell of roses” or “the rough feel of sandpaper.”
- Words that evoke emotions. Words that describe feelings and emotions can help to create a more emotional response in the reader, such as heartwarming” or “terrifying.”
- Words that convey action. Words that describe movement and action can help to create a sense of excitement or suspense, such as “dashing” or “sneaking.”
- Descriptive language: Descriptive language is used to create vivid images in the reader’s mind. A good description can make a story more immersive and engaging.
When using description, you should try to:
- Use specific details. Vague descriptions can be confusing, and can often be boring, such as “She was wearing a dress.” Instead, you should try to be more specific, such as “She was wearing a red dress with a white lace collar.”
- Use concrete images. Abstract descriptions can be difficult to picture, and can often be confusing, such as “She was feeling happy.” Instead, you could use a description such as “A smile was tugging at the corners of her mouth.”
- Use sensory language. Describing the sights, smells, sounds, and textures of the setting can help to create a more vivid picture for the reader.
- Use figurative language. Figurative language is a language that is not literal and can be used to add interest and depth to the description. Some examples of figurative language include similes, metaphors, and personification.
- Narration: The way in which a story is narrated can have a big impact on how it is received. A good narrator will be able to keep the reader engaged, while a bad narrator will lose the reader’s interest.
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When choosing a narrator, you should consider:
- Who will be telling the story? The choice of narrator can have a big impact on how the story is told. First-person narration can be more intimate, while third-person narration can be more objective.
- How much information the narrator will have? The amount of information that the narrator has can also affect how the story is told. An omniscient narrator will have access to all of the information, while a limited narrator will only have access to some of the information.
- How involved the narrator will be? The level of involvement that the narrator has in the story can also affect how it is told. A detached narrator will simply be telling the story, while an involved narrator will be more invested in the story.
- The narrator’s tone. The tone of the narrator can also affect how the story is told. A serious tone will be more formal, while a playful tone will be more informal.
- Metaphors: Metaphors can be used to add depth and meaning to a story. They can also be used to make the reader think about the story in a new and different way.
Some examples of metaphors one could use include:
- “She was a rose among thorns.”
- “He was a lion in the ring.”
- “The room was a prison cell.”
- Similes: Similes are like metaphors, but they are not as strong or as impactful. They are often used to make a point more clearly or to add some humour to a story.
Some examples of similes one could use include:
- “She was as beautiful as a rose.”
- “He was as brave as a lion.”
- “The room was as small as a prison cell.”
- Allegories: Allegories are stories that can be read on two levels – the literal level and the symbolic level. They are often used to make a point about something larger, such as society or human nature.
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Some examples of great allegories in literary works include:
- “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins – an allegory for the dangers of reality television.
- “Animal Farm” by George Orwell – an allegory for the Russian Revolution.
- “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding – an allegory for the human capacity for violence.
- Personification: Personification is a figure of speech in which non-human objects are given human qualities. Personification can be used to make a story more relatable or easier to understand.
Some examples of personification one could use include:
- “The wind was howling in protest.”
- “The sun smiled down on me.”
- “My heart ached with sadness.”
- Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a figure of speech that uses exaggeration for effect. It is often used for comic effect, or to make a point more clearly.
Some great examples of hyperbole in the literature include:
- “I’ve told you a million times not to do that!”
- “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!”
- “I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life!”
- Understatement: Understatement is the opposite of hyperbole. It is a figure of speech that downplays an event or situation for effect. It can be used to create a sense of irony or to make a point more subtly.
Some great use of understatement in literary classics include:
- “It’s just a flesh wound.” (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
- “I’ve had worse.” (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back)
- “I’m fine.” (The Titanic)
- Imagery: Imagery is the use of words to create pictures in the reader’s mind. Imagery can be used to describe characters, settings, or events in a way that is vivid and impactful.
Some great examples of imagery in the literature include:
- “The darkness was like a blanket, smothering me.”
- “Her eyes were as cold as ice.”
- “The room was a mess, with papers and books strewn everywhere.”
- Allusion: An allusion is a reference to something else, often something that is well-known. Allusions can be used to add depth and meaning to a story or to make a point more clearly.
Some examples of allusions one could use include:
- “She’s as mad as a hatter.” (Alice in Wonderland)
- “He’s a real-life Romeo.” (Romeo and Juliet)
- “This place is a zoo!” (The Jungle Book)
- Symbolism: Symbolism is the use of symbols to represent something else. Symbols can be used to add depth and meaning to a story or to make a reader think about the story in a new and different way.
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For example, the colour white is often used to symbolize purity, while the colour black is often used to symbolize evil. In “The Great Gatsby”, the green light is a symbol of hope and the American Dream.
- Flashbacks: Flashbacks are scenes from the past that are included in a story. They are often used to provide information about a character’s backstory or to further the plot.
In classics like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Catcher in the Rye”, flashbacks are used to give readers a better understanding of the characters and their motivations.
- In “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Atticus Finch’s flashback to his time as a young lawyer helps explain his views on justice and equality.
- In “The Catcher in the Rye”, Holden Caulfield’s flashbacks to his time at boarding school provide insight into his character and why he is struggling so much in the present.
- Foreshadowing: Foreshadowing is the use of clues or hints to suggest what is going to happen later in a story. It can be used to create suspense or to make a reader think about the story in a new and different way.
Some examples of foreshadowing in the literature include:
- In “The Hunger Games”, Katniss Everdeen’s decision to volunteer as a tribute is foreshadowing her role as the Mockingjay.
- In “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, Harry’s meeting with Professor Quirrell is foreshadowing Quirrell’s role as Voldemort’s servant.
- In “The Lord of the Rings”, Frodo Baggins’ decision to take the Ring to Mordor is foreshadowing his role as the Ringbearer.
- Diction: Diction is the choice of words that a writer makes. It can have a big impact on the tone and style of a story.
For example, “The Catcher in the Rye” is written in the first-person point of view, and Holden Caulfield’s use of slang gives the story a unique voice.
Some other great examples of the use of diction in literary works include:
- In “The Great Gatsby”, Nick Carraway’s use of formal language gives the story a feeling of detachment.
- In “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Atticus Finch’s use of simple, straightforward language helps convey his values and beliefs.
- In “The Lord of the Rings”, J.R.R. Tolkien’s use of Old English words creates a sense of history and mythology.
- Repetition: Repetition is the repeating of certain words or phrases. It can be used for emphasis, or to create a sense of rhythm.
Some examples of repetition in the literature include:
- In “The Great Gatsby”, the repetition of the word “green” creates a sense of hope and longing.
- In “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, the repeated use of the phrase “You’re a wizard, Harry” helps create a sense of wonder and magic.
- In “The Lord of the Rings”, the repeated use of the phrase “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them” creates a sense of foreboding and dread.
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