A List of Techniques for Narrative Writing

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Narrative writing is a form of writing where an author tells a story. The story may include multiple characters, or it may have none at all. It may have the scope of "Gone with the Wind" or consist of a single page. Narrative writers use a variety of techniques to tell their stories.

Flashback

  • In Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," the main character jumps back and forth between events in the past and present to tell his story. Writers use the flashback technique to provide background information about a narrative. Characters in a story can flash back in time using a variety of methods such as dream sequences and retelling of memories. The 2007 version of the movie "Titanic" begins with a flash back as the main character Rose recalls her time aboard the ill-fated ship. Flashbacks interrupt a narrative's linear time flow. They are a useful storytelling technique when implemented in a comprehensible fashion.

Foreshadowing

  • Using the foreshadowing technique, a writer can give readers clues about events to come. These clues may be obvious or subtle. Narrative writers foreshadow future events using literary devices, such as dialog and symbols. For instance, a story might begin with a boy rescuing a woman. The writer may may portray him as a man who later works as a police officer. The "rescue" event foreshadowed his future occupation. Moviegoers often see this technique in mystery films where a camera lingers briefly over an object that has significance later in the story. Writers must consider their target audience when using foreshadowing. An adult narrative, for example, might contain subtle symbolic clues that younger readers might not catch.

Third Person Omniscient

  • Writers create stories using first-, second- or third-person points of view. When telling a story, using a third person omniscient point of view, writers tell a story without the use of an explicit narrator. The omniscient voice is cast as aware of everything that is happening and can describe any scene at any location and know what characters are thinking. A narrator using a third-person omniscient point of view also communicates directly with readers. For instance, the narrator may suddenly say, "I'm sure you have experienced such an incident." This pulls the reader into the story by avoiding the intervention of the narratorial voice.

Dual Narrative

  • Writers using the dual narrative technique tell stories using two perspectives. This is an effective way to give readers details about an event, character or scene. For instance, a firefighter in a story may speak of his experience in a burning building. Another character witnessing the event might next provide additional details about the scene. This technique allows readers to gain a larger perspective of the whole event. Crime writers often using dual narratives to give readers glimpses of intense action on one hand and a character's personal reflection on the other.

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