You want to get an A* in GCE O Level English but, your writing skills are not very good? Even if you are good at writing, you want to see some work of other students to learn something new?
Do not, worry. I am here to help. But before, let me introduce the topic to you.
Narrative writing is a form of writing in which there is the main character. This character faces a problem or an event and then deals with it.
In simple words, it tells you a story with a proper sequence of events (plot). For example, you share your amazing story about your exams. So basically, if you do this, you are using characteristics of a narrative.
Suspense if a main part of a narrative. But, we will take a look at it later in this article.
You should know that narrative is a part of section 2 in paper 1 of O level English. You have to write between 350 to 500 words for this question.
Parts of Narrative Writing:
(If you are interested in only reading the sample, scroll down. But, it is not recommended).
Just like a cake has some layers, narrative has also some parts. But, why should you know them?
It is very simple. If you do not know about the parts of a narrative you, will not be able to write a good story. For example, you have to know about your characters, story (plot) and setting while writing a story.
So, some of these parts are:
- Plot: In creative writing, it is the sequence in which events happen.
The plot is all about the story and how your events progress. But, it is not only how events are taking place in you story.
What do I mean by that? Let me tell.
A good plot shows how the character gets into a conflict (discussed below). Simply, your character has to get into trouble and then, he has to work out a solution to deal with the problem.
This creates suspense and drama that is one of the most important parts of creative writing, especially narrative. This is because you have to remember that without suspense, no one will read your story.
To summarise, a good plot looks something like this:
- The main character faces a conflict (problem).
- Things go right (everything gets normal).
- Things go wrong (problem arise that creates suspense).
- Finally, wrap up how your character deals with the problem (gets successful or fails).
Moving on, let’s talk about characters now.
- Characters: For me, characters are the most important. But why? Let me tell.
Characters are what your readers remember. For example, there is a hero or a villain that you will remember after reading a story. Therefore, they play a very crucial part in your essay writing.
Simply, characters are those people in your writing that perform actions and speak dialogues. They play their part in the story to develop the plot.
Note: Character development is the key if you want to write a good narrative. You have to show your characters change during the story and what part they play.
There are different kinds of character. For example:
- Protagonist: The main character of the story (and the most important one).
- Antagonist: The villain of the story (the opponent of the protagonist).
- Tertiary characters: They are the minor characters in the story that may or may not be linked to the storyline.
However, the tertiary characters serve different functions and objectives. You can use these characters to your benefit by developing your sequence of events (plot).
- Conflict: This is the part of the story when your main character faces some problems. This part is what you can call suspense or drama.
Here, you have to make sure that tension builds that keeps your readers engaged. What do I mean by that?
Simply, let’s suppose that your character is being accused (blamed) for a crime that he has not committed. This is the conflict that your character will resolve. So, the conflict allows your story to continue.
Remember the better the conflict, the better the story.
- Setting: A backdrop (or setting) refers to the location or time in the narrative.
It can be fictional or non-fictional, depending on your story. Let me explain this with the help of an example.
For example, a story about a boy who is bullied in college in the suburb of Atlanta, in the 1980s.
Moving on, let me share a sample of creative (narrative) writing with you so that we can discuss some other points regarding this topic.
Sample of Narrative Writing:
Question: Write a story in which you disobeyed an order.
The camp had never been as crowded as it was on that day which dawned crisp and clear. I had never witnessed so much chaos that erupted due to the convocation of the arriving troops.
This was because our village was under attack by a rival party, and our soldiers were summoned to prevent further loss of lives. This was the only thing that we could do at the moment – abide by the orders given to us.
Ryan, our leader, was a tall dark man who possessed fierce looks. He assembled me and Jimmy in his office and, we rushed to meet him. Unlike other days, we had to clear multiple security checks because dozens of Seraphites penetrated our camps.
Seraphites were the people of our rival squad but, Ryan called them “Scars”. Therefore, everyone followed his expression due to the simultaneous feelings of fear and respect.
Ryan’s office was as usually dark, and it was like a place out of time. The smoke of the cigarette occupied the entire room with its offensive, eye-watering and stale odour.
“Joel and Jimmy, do not leave the camp at any cost. The scars have their traps all around”, he said. We nodded and enquired about our future plans.
However, the blaring sounds of disarray disturbed our conversation. “Go check out what the matter is. I am expecting Chris and Karl back to the camp soon”, Ryan said in an optimistic manner. I dashed out where I glanced at some soldiers dragging a body towards Ryan’s room.
I lifted the muddy black fabric from the face, and it was Karl. “Chris has killed him! We will make that traitor pay for this”, one of the sobbing soldiers commented. I was in utter disbelief because Chris and Karl had served our village for decades and therefore, I could not comprehend one being a traitor.
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“I have to get to the bottom of the issue”, I said in a hustle. My ally Jimmy urged me to stop and not disobey Ryan’s order of not leaving the camp. I was determined to reach out to Chris, and I even knew about his whereabouts.
This was because he was entrusted an assignment to our previous hide-out. Nonetheless, Jimmy helped me egress from the camp from the Southern door because the number of troops was minimal over here.
I confidently marched towards the East to confront Chris, but after twenty minutes of hectic sprinting, I became more cautious. Unfortunately, one of the traps of Scars caught me as my left foot was trapped in a metalled cage (like structure).
I was surrounded by numerous Scars within a fraction of seconds who had their heads shaved and eyebrows removed, and they were honestly terrifying. They referred to us (the people of my camp) as “Wolves” and one of them said: “We need to get rid of him. He has an idea where we are camping”.
I took a deep breath and my nose caught the most horrible odour ever. The smell was terrible – it could even get a beast on its feet. But, I was more concerned about my life as it flashed before my eyes. The muscles in my body screamed at me to flee, but the cage kept me frozen.
My intensifying breaths came to a halt for a while when I started to hear distant gunshots. These disturbing sounds caught the attention of most of the Scars, who departed in fragments to come across the matter. This was the time when I grabbed out my knife, which I concealed, and struck the cage with intense force until the lock pierced into pieces.
With this, I instantly broke into a sprint and multiple Scars started to chase me. The colour of my pale face was draining, and my legs were losing their energy and potential to run. However, half a mile forward, Jimmy appeared who diverted their route.
Exhausted, I arrived at the door of the camp where Ryan was standing with his wide-open glaring eyes and tightly closed lips. I wanted to explain but he yelled in an uncontrollable manner: “You disobeyed me for that traitor? I also want to know why he did that to his close friend, Karl.”
Simultaneously, he struck sharply at my face with intense force from his hands and ordered me to get locked. I was anxious about my punishment but even more worried about Chris. My mind was bombarded with questions such as, “Why did he commit this crime? What if he is innocent? What punishment will the camp decide for him, and for me?” I sobbed in the cell which gradually escalated.
First of all, let’s start with the strengths of the response.
- The candidate makes use of description (particularly sensory words sometimes) which is very important in a narrative.
For example, “I took a deep breath and my nose caught the most horrible odour ever. The smell was terrible – it could even get a beast on its feet”.
The thing over here is that good vocabulary is important to score well. However, do not the stuff in fancy words you have learned just to make your story look good. This will do more harm than good.
Therefore, try to keep your writing style as natural as possible. The candidate deserves appreciation for this point (at least in my point of view).
Bonus tip: If you want to use good vocabulary and make it look natural, here is what you can do. Find out the words you want to use. Learn about their meaning and read sentences around those words. Then, gradually use them in your writing. They will look much more natural than usual.
- There is some element of suspense in the story. This keeps the reader engaged.
For me, suspense and mystery are extremely important in a narrative.
Simply because it keeps your reader engaged, and when you convince your reader to keep reading, you have written something good. Let me explain this with the help of an example.
The candidate uses a cliffhanger technique at the end of the narrative. For you, a cliffhanger is a technique that creates suspense (at the end of the story). What happens is that the writer leaves some questions (unanswered) for the readers.
For example, the candidate leaves it on the readers to think what the fate of the writer (Joel) and another character, Chris, would be. The questions such as “what if he is innocent?” create suspense among the readers.
But note that, do not leave your story incomplete (this technique does not say that). It is all about leaving behind some questions (which you do not answer) and demand your readers to figure them out. This takes us to another important point, which is about the characters.
- You will agree with me over here, a story without good characters is not a good story.
When it comes to characters, there are some areas of improvement (which I have discussed later). But for now, let’s talk about some positive points.
There is some description about the characters and their roles, such as: “Ryan, our leader, was a tall dark man who possessed fierce looks”. The story has major as well as minor characters.
Moreover, the dialogues used by the characters show that the candidate had knowledge about dialogues. But remember that, do not use dialogues in excess.
What do I mean by that? Let me tell.
You have to use dialogues sometimes to show the examiner that you have knowledge about them. But, too much dialogue makes your narrative less of a story but some of a speech. So, use them when necessary (and when you should use them).
If you are not using dialogues, you are compromising on major elements of narrative writing, such as character development. Because your reader will know about your characters through their dialogues. So keep that in mind.
- The story revolves around the topic of disobeying an order.
The topic was about writing a story in which you disobeyed an order. Well, the story justifies the topic (although there could have been some improvements).
The story clearly has a theme and a plot. Furthermore, the candidate successfully builds up the story, making the main character forceful to “disobey the command” of their leader. In terms of language, the student uses decent vocabulary along with transition words (such as however and moreover).
The candidate uses simple sentences along with compound sentences. The spellings and grammatical mistakes are less but, this area can be improved further (because in the English language, these things matter).
Now, let’s talk about some areas of improvement as well.
The areas of improvement:
- I think you will agree with me over here. The story has not a “great” beginning (particularly, the first paragraph).
But why am I saying this? Let me explain this to you.
A good starting in a story indicates what is going to happen in future (simply, an overview was required). For example, the candidate could have given an overview of how events were going to happen in future.
And after all, the purpose of the introductory paragraph is to briefly tell your readers what the story will be about. In short, the candidate could have linked the starting lines with the topic (of disobeying the order).
The take away from this is that make sure that your reader knows what the story is going to be about. For that, make sure you talk about the topic at the start (this may not be applicable to all narrative topics). In my opinion, the start could have some reference to all the soldiers abiding by the orders of their leader.
And like the beginning, the conclusion could have improved (by describing some challenges that the character faced after disobeying the order).
Moving on to the next thing, which is about the element of suspense and tension.
- Earlier, I said that there is some element of suspense present in the story. But it can be improved. Let me show you how this can be done.
There is suspense in the story when the main character gets caught by his rivals. But, a better description of the problems faced by the character could have been written. The tension could have been build with details about what his rivals were planning to do with him.
And if I talk about the setting here, the candidate could have explained a little bit more about the time and place. These things are the main components of a narrative. Therefore, you should “show not tell”.
- A predictable plot is a bad plot.
You may have predicted what was going to happen in the future. If this happens, then there is a problem with the plot.
Let me explain.
A plot should have interesting twists (in the story) that build up tension and mystery. This is the thing that will prevent your writing from being “boring”. When it comes to this sample, a couple of twists in the plot could have made the story very good.
For example, the attack on the camp when the main character returned or meeting with the so-called “traitor” (or something like that may work). So, try to do these things to keep your readers engaged.
- The candidate should have worked on the characters as well.
Look, no one likes flat characters. The student has used characters – great. But, there are some things to improve over here.
You have to make your character interesting (for example your character may love to do strange or risky things). If your characters (especially the protagonist) are unique, readers will love your story.
For example, a casual story about a dad working hard for his family may not necessarily be interesting. But, a story about a dad working hard and educating his daughter despite social pressure may work out as a good story (depends on how you deliver it).
With this, our topic about narrative writing has come to an end. Thank you very much for reading and staying with me till the end.
In this article, I have discussed the parts of a narrative along with a sample report. Do practise some questions and take proper feedback from someone so that you improve your writing skills.
Now I turn it over to you. Which part of a narrative you think matters the most? Is it the conflict, setting or the plot? I will appreciate your thoughts on the topic.
Stay tuned for more.