Master the Art of Storytelling in Narrative Writing

Storytelling is an art that has been cherished since the dawn of human civilization. It’s a powerful tool that captivates audiences, evokes emotions, and transports your readers to another world.

And narrative writing is the written manifestation of this art. This next tip will take you through the art of storytelling, specifically in narrative writing. I’ll introduce you to key elements and techniques, strategies you can use to weave your enchanting tales.

What Is Narrative Writing?


It’s a style of writing that tells a story. Simple as that. It involves a series of real or imagined events and usually includes elements like characters, plot, conflict, setting and theme. Narrative writing examples can be found in novels, short stories, memoirs and narrative essays.

The Elements of Storytelling

  • Characters: Characters are the people that live within your story. Well-developed characters should be complex and relatable, each with their motivations, strengths and weaknesses apart from the others. A good example is Harry Potter. With his courage, loyalty and flaws, Harry Potter naturally makes readers root for him. He’s the stereotypical hero.
  • Plot: The sequence of events that make up your story. It includes the characters’ struggles and how they overcome them.
  • Setting: Your setting provides the backdrop against which your story unfolds. It includes the physical environment, the period and the cultural context. Just think of the magical world of Hogwarts and how it provides a rich setting for the Harry Potter series.
  • Theme: This is your story’s underlying message or main idea. It gives your narrative depth and meaning, like how George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” explores themes of power and corruption.
  • Conflict: This is the engine of your narrative because conflict drives your narrative forward. It creates tension and propels your characters into action. It gives your characters a reason to do what they do.

Mastering the Basics

To make all of the above work, you have to understand the basic tools writers use when crafting a story, whether fiction or nonfiction.

Understanding the Narrative Arc

The narrative arc, or story arc, refers to the progression of your plot. It usually includes exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. In the famous story of “Romeo and Juliet,” the climax occurs when Romeo kills Tybalt, setting in motion the tragic ending.

Show, Don’t Tell: A Fundamental Rule

This was one of the very first hard-and-fast rules I learned as a writer. “Show, don’t tell” is about using descriptive language to show your readers what’s happening rather than just telling them.

Instead of writing, “John was sad,” you can write, “Tears welled in John’s eyes as he gazed at the empty chair across him.” See how much better it sounds?

The Power of Detail in Storytelling

Specific details make your story vivid and engaging.

Sure, you could write, “She ate an apple,” but consider, “She crunched into the ripe, red apple, its sweet juice trickling down her chin.” The details transform this simple statement.

Dialogue and Its Role in Narrative Writing

Dialogue reveals character traits, advances the plot, and brings your story to life. It should be natural, engaging and true to each character’s voice.

Different Styles of Narrative Writing

  • First-person narrative: This uses pronouns like “I” or “we” and “me” to give a personal and intimate perspective. The reader experiences the story through the eyes of the main character.
  • Third-person narrative: This uses pronouns like “he,” “she” or “they” to offer a wider, more objective view. It’s like someone telling a story they weren’t involved in but knows all the details.
  • The second-person narrative: This is a rare and special narrative that uses “you” and involves the reader directly in the story. It’s not common but can be effective in certain contexts, like in “Choose Your Own Adventure” books.

Creating Emotional Connection Through Storytelling

  • Engaging the reader’s emotions: Evoke your readers’ fears, tap into what makes them sad, and explore things that make them happy. This helps them connect not just with the story but with the characters, too.
  • Building empathy for your characters: Create relatable characters that deal with real-life problems so your readers can see themselves within them.

Editing and Revising Your Narrative

  • Revision is where good writing becomes great writing. It involves refining your narrative for clarity, coherence and impact.
  • Look for the plot, character development, or tone inconsistencies, and ensure your narrative is clear and understandable. Things like character mannerisms, defining features of the setting, and maintaining the same tone or “voice” throughout the story.
  • Know when to kill your darlings. “Killing your darlings” means letting go of parts of your story you love if they don’t serve the narrative. It’s often painful for a writer to do this, but it’s necessary for the good of your story. I promise.

Putting It All Together

Mastering the art of storytelling takes time and practice, but these tips should help you on your way. Remember, every great storyteller started somewhere. Now it’s your turn to take up the pen and begin your journey.