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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.



  • It supports the plot, whether as a motivating force or as a catalyst.
  • 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 narrator’s standpoint. (This creates opportunities to test the reader’s 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, etc.
  • 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 character’s 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 character’s 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.
Email Paddy Gormley Telephone +4420 or 020 8319 4276