Descriptive Writing Narrative Styles   5 comments

There are a range of narrative styles one could use in a descriptive writing passage. By far the most effective is the ‘fly-on-the-tree’ technique. This involves the narrator, the person telling the story, pretending that he can see everything from a height, just as the fly can.

The narrator should also share the experiences of taste, smell, sound and sensation with the reader, even if the fly can’t! It enables the storyteller to give a scope and a sweep to the imagery that might otherwise be too confined and too linear (one dimensional). This technique is also known as omniscient (all-seeing) narration. By using this narrative style, one may add variety and give a perspective that is both varied and detailed. It also prevents any monotony setting in for the reader.

The best advice a teacher or parent can give is to tell their budding scribes to look up first, then to look down and, finally, to look around when creating a scene. Try to describe the colour of the sky, the shape of the clouds or the movement of a bird. This creates a setting, just as a landscape painting should have a background. Then add in the smaller details that are under your eye level. Finally, describe the scene as you are walking and let it unfold in front of you.

Visualise a still painting of a forest in your mind, for example. Let’s assume the sky above it has been coloured in with a lush, peacock-blue colour. The clouds are scattered and puffball-white and an eagle is frozen on the canvas with his wings outstretched above you, ready to strike. This is a good start to a passage.

It sets the scene by establishing your location (the forest), the season (summer) and the possibility of a dangerous plot developing (i.e. is the eagle hunting you or something else?). Once the background features have been painted in, the plot (story) can begin to take any shape you want it to.

Similarly, if you have that priceless ability to imagine and paint in the smaller details which others might not include, it gives your story creativity and originality. This is what I call ‘laser-eyed attention to detail’.

Is it possible you were walking by a river bank in the forest?

Could the eagle be an osprey, a fish eagle, perhaps?

Can you describe the sound he makes as he swoops past you?

Does the silver belly of the fish glisten in his talons in the dawn light?

Are the eyes of the eagle nectar-gold and bright or scarecrow-black and lifeless?

By including minute details such as these, you are breathing life and imagination into your story. More importantly, these techniques can be developed by any parent or teacher.

The key is to have a questing and inquisitive mind when educating a child. Asking them high value questions on colours, images, sounds, smells, sensations and tastes will improve their writing beyond recognition. There is an old adage which states: “In simplicity lies genius”. Using the formulas contained in the book will guide students toward the pursuit of excellence.

There is another narrative technique which I call ‘zoom narration’. This can be very effective when you are describing a beach trip, a mountain climbing expedition or a thundery day, amongst others. It requires forward planning, but it is very enjoyable to read when it is completed. In the ‘Waterfall’ chapter, Level 5, this technique is employed. The idea is to develop your key sounds and images from a faraway perspective. As you get closer, the sounds become louder and the image of the waterfall becomes clearer. The words are sequenced throughout the text, so much so that they seem to appear randomly.
The sequence appears in this order:

Sounds- humming/buzzing/whirruping/growling/rumbling

Images- silver tear tracks/threads of watery fabric/loom of liquid silver/sleek robe of a water witch/airy sparkling of its spray

The key to ‘zoom narration’ is to plan it in advance. Build up a word bank based on the sounds and images needed and then employ them in your passage of writing.

First person narration occurs when a story is written from the point of view of a character in the story. A lot of the time, this would mean that you, as the narrator, intend to tell events in the first person using the personal pronouns I, my or me. If there are a lot of these pronouns, it is more than likely written in the first person.

Second person narration occurs when a story is directly addressed to the reader. The pronouns used to identify this style are you and your (singular). It can be compelling, but it is much rarer as it narrows the range of styles a writer can employ.

Third person narration occurs when the reader watches events unfold as an observer only. The characters in the story have their own world and you are the outsider looking in. The pronouns employed here are he, she, it, they, them and your (plural). It is probably the most common narrative device.

Alternating-persons narration occurs when the views of several characters are included. It employs a combination of two or more of the above styles. It is common when letters are exchanged between characters or diaries are revealed by the narrator, for example.

An ants-eye view is describing a scene from ground level. It is extremely difficult to write a passage of any length while employing this technique. It may be used for something like a summer day on the beach if necessary.



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5 responses to “Descriptive Writing Narrative Styles

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  1. HI Liam,

    “Writng with Stardust” provides a wealth of information at your finger tips, not only for aspiring writers, but also for those already on the journey. These books are also indispensable as teaching material; concise, clear and brimming over with clever and intriguing ideas.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Hi Philip:
    Thanks for the generous spirit of your comment. It is very gratifying and I appreciate it. Talk soon and cheers again for the lovely remarks. Top man. Liam.

  3. I find your writing very helpful. I am also studying how to write more effectively and this blog is just in time. Thank you so much for sharing this information. It will serve as my guide in my blogging.

  4. Hi Ana Rose:
    Thank you very much. It’s very considerate of you to leave a comment and it’s great to have so many teachers following the blog. I hope to make regular postings, perhaps monthly, and thanks again for your kind comment. Cheers for now. Liam.

  5. That will be great. I am no longer a teacher when I read you blog. I become the student.

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