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What is Narrative Writing? - Definition, Types, Characteristics & Examples Video

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  • 0:01 What Is Narrative Writing?
  • 0:30 Narrative Writing as Fiction
  • 1:06 Characteristics
  • 4:20 Types & Examples
  • 5:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

In this lesson, you'll learn what makes a piece of writing a narrative. Examples are also given to illustrate the specific types of narrative writing.

What is Narrative Writing?

What is the difference between 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' and a newspaper article on bear attack statistics? Both are about human interaction with bears, but the difference is the first is a made-up story about a girl meeting some bears, while the second is reporting on facts about bears. A story has many obvious differences from a statistical report. 'Goldilocks' is an example of narrative writing, which is any kind of writing that tells a story.

Narrative Writing as Fiction

Usually, narrative writing is categorized as fiction, which is based on imaginative events or stories that did not actually happen. The other category of writing is known as nonfiction, which would be writing that is based on real facts. This usually consists of newspapers, essays, reports, and other informative writing. However, some nonfiction can in fact tell a story, which would classify it as narrative writing. In the case of nonfiction, the story must be a true story with real people and events. Autobiographies and biographies are examples of nonfiction that is narrative writing, as they tell the real story of a person's life.

Characteristics of Narrative Writing

There are many specific traits every piece of narrative writing should have. All stories must have characters, also known as the people or subjects of the story. Usually there are also specific types of characters needed in order to create a developed story. For example, each story will often have a protagonist, which is the hero or heroine. This is the central character of the story. Often, there is also an antagonist, which is a character who opposes the protagonist. Overall, each story needs characters to push forward or react to the events in the plot.

In addition to characters, every story must have a plot, or events that occur. Think of your favorite book. What if none of the events in that book happened? Take away the plot, and the characters would just be sitting around doing nothing. Would it still be your favorite book? Of course not, it would be the most boring read ever! Every story needs a plot or events that give the characters something to react to. Usually, the plot consists of five components: the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

One of the most important components of a story is the conflict. A conflict is any struggle between opposing forces. Imagine a story where there were no problems. The characters simply lived their happy lives with no troubles and nothing difficult to deal with. Would that story interest you? Probably not. Conflict is very important to creating interest in stories.

Usually, the main conflict is between the protagonist and the antagonist, but that is not always the case. The struggles can exist between society, within a character, or even with acts of nature. There are two basic types of conflict: internal and external. Internal conflicts are the struggles that occur within a character, and external conflicts are the struggles outside of a character. These can occur between two characters, between characters and society, or between characters and natural events.

The setting is another component of narrative writing. The setting is the time and location in which the story takes place. These facts set the scene for the story and can determine what kind of conflict occurs. For example, if a story is set in the 1800s, can the protagonist have a conflict that involves losing his cell phone? Unless the story is about time travel, the answer is no. The setting can also be important to plot twists if the reader makes assumptions about the time or place that turn out to be false. Overall, the setting has an important impact on every story.

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