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Home » People » Karl Sherlock » English 098 » Instructional Resources » xrcs | Describe/Narrate

Narrative-Descriptive Exercise

Gather into groups of five, and take out a loose-leaf sheet of paper. (Don't write in your notebook unless you're prepared to tear out the page you're using.) Your group will undertake a round-robin of a rapid-fire story-making that responds to the following theme:

"...and what we saw was shocking!"

The topic of this exercise doesn't have to be autobiographical, nor does it need to have really happened. In short, you're going to develop a work of fiction instead of creative nonfiction. Go with the flow of the story as your peers develop it. Don't try to wrench the story in a completely different direction when your time comes to add to it, but do try to have fun with the process.

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Step 1: Setting/Senses

(3 minutes)
Begin a story by introducing a setting (a place, and a time). Try to capture a mood and a point of view in your description, and make sure that at least three of the five senses are represented. 

Write legibly!

Step 2: Characters
(5 minutes)

Pass this story-beginning to the left, and continue writing your peer's story by introducing a character. Describe the character is as much detail as five minutes will allow, but include and complete the following in your description: "He / She was one of those people who would . . . " Use consonance and assonance in your description.

Step 3: Figurative Writing
(5 minutes)

Again, pass this developing story to the left, and continue writing your peers' story by introducing a situation that involves the character introduced in the last step: circumstances, an accident, a mistake. Describe the process of this situation in detail, but use at least one simile or metaphor.

Step 4: Drawing Conclusions

(5 minutes)
If in a group of four, pass the story composed by you and your peers to the person on your right; if in a group of 5, pass it again to the person on your left. Read the work-in-progress just given to you, and conclude it in any way you want, so long as it leaves a strong impression, and not just a thesis: continue to use only narrative and descriptive writing, not expository writing. (In other words, don't end with "The moral of this story is . . . " or anything like that.)

Step 5: Entitled to a Title
Pass the complete story back to the originator and compare the results. Which one was the most successful work of narrative-descriptive writing, and why? Which words, phrases, or entire sentences in it stand out as important? Entertaining? Literary? Collaborate on an effective title for this story, and, with time permitting, be prepared to read it aloud to the class if called upon.
Elements of Descriptive-Narrative Writing
Tells Us What It's Like
Tells Us What's Happening
Wide Sensory Appeal
  • hear, smell, taste, touch, see
  • don't over-rely on visual appeal
  • don't point out the obvious; subtlety use all five senses
Story Structure
  • beginning, middle, end
  • setting and situation, rising action, turning point (climax), and conclusion (denouement)
  • chronology (story sequence)
Specific Detail and Imagery
  • describes more than the facts
  • creates a mood or feeling
  • unconcerned with the relay of information
  • first- or third-person storyteller
  • uses verb tenses with intention
  • voice of the observer versus voice of the mind
Language Choices
  • words chosen for connotation, not denotation
  • words chosen because they sound interesting
  • words chosen to create a mood or tone
  • words chosen for their alliteration or assonance
  • narrative character versus story characters
  • character dialogue and dialogue tags
  • character vocabulary and tone
  • balancing dialogue with narration
Subjects for Description
  • character traits
  • environment and setting
  • objects and actions of interest
Subjects for Narration
  • plot points
  • back story and flashbacks
  • exposition


Last Updated: 04/05/2017


Karl J Sherlock
English / Creative Writing
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Phone: 619-644-7871

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