Writing narratives

Writing narratives

Author: Ryan Howard

    Distinguish between narratives and informational writing.


    Explain common structures for narratives or creative texts (e.g. starting in the middle, sequencing events, etc.).


    Explain literary and narrative techniques (e.g. repetition, pacing, reflection, etc.).


    Explain figurative and sensory language.


This packet should help a learner seeking to understand how to write a paper and who is confused about how to write a narrative. It will explain how narratives are different than informational papers and how to structure them. 

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Intro to Narratives

A narrative is a story featured in a format such as television, a novel, a short story, etc. that describes a series of events, whether they are fictional or not. 

Informational or expository text simply features information


Narrative vs Informational writing:



  • Create Emotion (e.g. The howling wind created a sense of spine-tingling eerieness in the secluded forest.)
  • Set up a scene (time period, weather, culture, place, and characters)


  • Reveal information about the characters through such things as descriptive text and dialogue (e.g. having a character use poor grammar gives the indication that he or she is not well educated)Try to get the audience feel certain emotions toward the characters (e.g. Harriet Beecher Stowe does the job of getting readers to despise the villain Simon Legree in her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin). 


  • Contain a beginning, a middle, and an end.  The climax of a narrative will represent the high point .  Everything will be resolved from then on.


      Informational/Expository Texts do the following:

  • Explain a process (e.g. the process of producing an animated cartoon)


  • Show a cause-and effect relationship (e.g. explaining that smoking leads to lung cancer)


  • Compare and contrast (e.g. England in the Middle Ages vs. Renassaince)


  • Identify problems and propose solutions (e.g. identifying the issue with oil spills and how to solve that problem)


  • Build and support a hypothesis (e.g. supporting the theory that a vegan diet is healthier than one that is animal based.) 

Source: Glencoe and McGraw-Hill. Grammar and Composition Handbook. Columbus, OH: Glencoe/McGraw-HIll, 2000

Literary Structures and Techniques

You can view a more complete list of narrative/literary techniques at this site:


Figurative and Sensory Language

Figurative Language - language that is used to represent something other than the literal meaning.  Uses "figures of speech."  (" You think that I am made of money")


Some examples of figurative language include:


Similies - they use the  words "like" and "as" to compare one thing with another (e.g. as hungry as a horse, like a bat out of Hell)

Metaphors - describe one or more things as something else. Particularly common in poetry. (e.g. Although he was confident at first, Heath was nothing more than a mouse when he walked up on stage to give his speech.)

Personification - Gives human characteristics to non-human objects.  (e.g. The stars in the night sky watched over me.)

Symbolism - In which one thing stands for another thing that is more abstract (e.g. a cross is a symbol for Christianity; a run-down building  or  leafless trees could symbole aging)

Allegory or Parable - A story that has a second meaning within itself (e.g. Jesus' parable of the sower was a symbol for God scattering his elect among the rest of the population)


Sensory Language

Sensory Language is language that refers to the stimulation of the five senses in writing. 

Examples include:

Sight - The fur of golden retriever shone in the bright sunlight.  In this sentence, the reader imagines the sight of the golden retriever's shiny fur. 


Sound - Jerry's car came to a screeching halt at the stop sign.  The reader can almost hear the car screech.


Feeling - The throbbing pain in Dain's arm made it difficult for him to do any writing.  The reader can almost feel the pain that Dain feels.


Taste - Carolina savored the creamy butterscotch malt.  The reader can almost taste the malt.


Smell -  The horrendous stench of the pig processing plant is a good reason for people to go vegan.  In this sentence, one can imagine how horrible the stench of the processing plant must be. 


Can you create a few sentences using figurative or sensory language?


In this lesson, you have learned that:


  • A narrative is a story, fiction or non-fiction, that describes a series of events


  • Informational/Expository text simply states information such as cooking instructions or facts about a certain subject.


  • There are three basic structures in a narrative: the introduction, the climax, and the resolution


  • There are also non-linear narratives, which do not tell the story in sequential order (the author may explain the conflict before the beginning of the story)


  • Figurative Language uses figures of speech in writing such as similies, metaphors, or personification


  • Sensory language uses language that stimulates the five senses.

Source: see above sections for sources