Narrative Writing: Conventions of the Form

Narrative Writing: Conventions of the Form

  • Narrative writing is all about telling a story - it’s the form most commonly found in novels, short stories, and scripts.
  • It can be defined by its purpose - to entertain, to instruct or inform, to persuade, or a combination of these.

Setting in a Narrative

  • The setting of a narrative involves the time, place and atmosphere where the events occur.
  • This can contribute to the tone, mood, and theme of the story. Waterproof descriptions can evoke vivid imagery in the reader’s mind.


  • Successful characterisation creates believable, three-dimensional individuals with whom readers can empathise.
  • Characters can be built through their actions, dialogue, thoughts, appearance, and how other characters react to them.
  • Dynamic characters undergo significant growth and change throughout the story, while static characters remain largely the same.

Plot Structure

  • Traditional narrative form possesses a sequenced plot, often following a pattern: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
  • The exposition or setup, introduces the main characters, setting, and the central conflict.
  • Rising action includes events that create suspense, tension, or interest.
  • The climax is the most intense, exciting, or important point of the story.
  • Falling action includes events that occur after the climax and lead towards the resolution.
  • The resolution is where the problems in the story are resolved and loose ends are tied up.

Point of View

  • The point of view determines whose perspective the story is told from.
  • The three main points of view are first person (I, we), second person (you), and third person (he, she, they).
  • In third-person, narratives can be omniscient (all-knowing narrator), objective (neutral, emotionless narrator), or limited (narrator with restricted knowledge).

Use of Conflict

  • Conflict is a vital element of narrative writing. It propels a story forward and engages readers.
  • It can be internal (within a character’s mind) or external (between a character and an outside force like nature, society, or another character).

Narrative Style and Language

  • Carefully chosen language use and style play a key role in engaging readers, setting the tone, and revealing character.
  • Devices such as foreshadowing, flashbacks, and symbolism can be employed to add layers of depth.
  • Dialogue can be used to reveal character and further plot.

Checking Your Work

  • Always proofread your narrative for inconsistencies in plot, characterisation, setting, and language use.
  • Aim for cohesion in your narrative elements. They should weave together seamlessly to create an engaging, believable story.
  • It can be beneficial to read your work aloud or seek external feedback to ensure it has the intended effect on readers.