Section Introduction- Telling a Story
“We’re all stories, in the end.” – Steven Moffat, Doctor Who27 Whether or not you’ve seen a single episode of Doctor Who, you can appreciate this quote. I love it for its ambiguities.28 As I can tell, we can interpret it in at least four ways:
But perhaps that’s enough abstraction: narration is a rhetorical mode that you likely engage on a daily basis, and one that has held significance in every culture in human history. Even when we’re not deliberately telling stories, storytelling often underlies our writing and thinking:
- Historians synthesize and interpret events of the past; a history book is one of many narratives of our cultures and civilizations.
- Chemists analyze observable data to determine cause-and-effect behaviors of natural and synthetic materials; a lab report is a sort of narrative about elements (characters) and reactions (plot).
- Musical composers evoke the emotional experience of story through instrumentation, motion, motifs, resolutions, and so on; a song is a narrative that may not even need words.
What makes for an interesting, well-told story in writing? In addition to description, your deliberate choices in narration can create impactful, beautiful, and entertaining stories.
|the process by which an author builds characters; can be accomplished directly or indirectly.
|a communication between two or more people. Can include any mode of communication, including speech, texting, e-mail, Facebook post, body language, etc.
|a character who noticeably changes within the scope of a narrative, typically as a result of the plot events and/or other characters. Contrast with static character.
|a character’s sudden realization of a personal or universal truth. See dynamic character.
|a character who is minimally detailed, only briefly sketched or named. Generally less central to the events and relationships portrayed in a narrative. Contrast with round character.
|the emotional dimension which a reader experiences while encountering a text. Compare with tone.
|multimedia / multigenre
|a term describing a text that combines more than one media and/or more than one genre (e.g., an essay with embedded images; a portfolio with essays, poetry, and comic strips; a mixtape with song reviews).
|a rhetorical mode involving the construction and relation of stories. Typically integrates description as a technique.
|the speed with which a story progresses through plot events. Can be influenced by reflective and descriptive writing.
|the boundaries of a narrative in time, space, perspective, and focus.
|the order of events included in a narrative.
|the events included within the scope of a narrative.
|the perspective from which a story is told, determining both grammar (pronouns) and perspective (speaker’s awareness of events, thoughts, and circumstances).
|a character who is thoroughly characterized and dimensional, detailed with attentive description of their traits and behaviors. Contrast with flat character.
|a character who remains the same throughout the narrative. Contrast with dynamic character.
|the emotional register of the text. Compare with mood.