How do you begin to write a narrative?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The first thing to consider in writing a story is who is my protagonist.  Establish who this person is and what does she look like, think about, dream about.  What is her home life? Establish or create anything that would help to develop the main character in the mind of the writer. 

Remember in a short story there has to be a limited number of characters in order to develop them and make them interesting.  The main character should learn a lesson, change her mind, or have an epiphany to make her a round character.

Next, decide what kind of conflict will this character face: man versus himself, man versus society, man versus nature or man versus the supernatural.  All good short stories have a strong conflict that the protagonist goes up against.  This make the story exciting and moves the action and plot.

One  way to decide on what the story will be about is to choose three unrelated items that would have to be worked into the story. Here are some examples of these:

1. fear of snakes, a stolen necklace, and a mysterious stanger

2. identical twins, a party invitation, and a locked room

3. a horoscope, an ex-boyfriend, and a secret diary

4. an annoying teacher, a love note, and fake illness

Notice that each of the groups of three has only one person in the bunch.  Try to write the story using only the protagonist and one other person. 

Another way to begin to plan the story  is to think of the overall event that the story is working toward:

For example, the babysitter is snooping around her employer's house and finds a disturbing photograph.

This is a list of other ideas:

 1. At a Chinese restaurant the protagonist opens his fortune cookie which says "Your life is in danger."

2. Your boss asks you to dinner with him and his wife.  He drinks too much and gets little fresh with you.

3.  It is the first day at a new school.  You do not know anyone. You finally see someone that you knew from summer camp.

 4. It is your first date ever.  The boy who ask you out seems very nice. He pulls out some "pot" and offers you some.  

Keep the events plausible.  Try to think of a fresh way to end the story.  Decide if the story will be a mystery, a funny story (with your character making a fool of herself) or a sad story with tears at the end. 

Work out the elements of the story before filling in the details: the initial event, the conflict, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, the denouement, and the resolution.  Then go to work writing it.  It is all about the preparation before actually writing the story that will make it the best one in the class.


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