This topic sheet was originally devised for
the Exciting Writing
Foundation Course. There is a table of links to
other teaching resources towards the bottom of this page.
WHAT MAKES GOOD DESCRIPTIVE/NARRATIVE
- It supports the plot, whether as a motivating force or as
- It helps knit together the fabric of the story.
- It keeps the reader/listener guessing about the mysteries
to be resolved.
- It activates readers/listeners memories and emotions,
creating visual images and evoking physical reactions.
- It gives the reader a firm standpoint from which to view
the action. In other words, rather than being left to choose
a character with which to identify, the reader/listener is
encouraged to see the action from the narrators standpoint.
(This creates opportunities to test the readers loyalties,
for example if s/he is lured into an empathetic relationship
with a villain.)
- It facilitates "time warps": flashbacks,
the passage of months or years in a few short sentences,
- It enables the exploration of thoughts and feelings that
might not be as deeply examined or clearly exposed through
dialogue or action. (This is another form of time warp, insofar
as the action of a moment can be explored at length in narrative
- It allows the exposition of details that might impede dialogue,
such as a characters first impressions of another person
or a place.
- It provides a contrast with dialogue.
- It acts as a surrogate for the visual component in non-visual
media such as books or radio.
- It provides an additional character who stands outside the
action, whether it be an existing characters alter ego
or a truly external observer.
- The additional character may be an animal or even an inanimate
object which might not otherwise be a credible participant
in the action.
- It creates enhanced opportunities for subtext and irony by
evoking a world that is visible to the reader/listener but
beyond the ken of at least some of the characters.