THIS POST IS FOR THE “NARRATIVE WRITING” AND “CRAFTING A SCENE” ASSIGNMENTS:
Answer the following 2 questions about 2 of the narrative writing examples below:
- Write a short response to the narrative.
- What are some of the conventions of the narrative genre that you see in this piece of writing? Where do you see them?
- (examples: descriptive, setting, characters, problem/conflict/observation, dialogue, reflection, etc.)
Two Ways to Belong in America by Bharati Mukherjee
Learning to Read and Write by Frederick Douglass
How to Tame A Wild Tongue by Gloria Anzaldua
I Am Not Photogenic And It’s Really Starting to Backfire by Rebecca Harrington
Begin pre-writing on your own experience. Pick 2-3 of the prompts below, write 1 &1/2 pages total in your Writer’s Notebook.
- Write about an experience in which you had to “rise up” like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Alexander Hamilton.
- Write about an experience in which you did something that brought about a major downfall like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Alexander Hamilton.
- Write about an experience you had being judged by others like Faulkner’s Emily Grierson.
- Write about an experience you had when you voiced your opinion or expressed your identity— like Langston Hughes’ poem “I, Too”.
- Write about something or some place that surrounds you and informs the way you live and think— like when Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about nature.
- Write about an experience you had standing up to something you believed wasn’t right, like in Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience”.
- Have you experienced trauma or inner conflict in the process of growing up in such a historical and controversial time in America, like Shakespeare’s Hamlet experienced in a corrupt Denmark?
- Write about social structures or systems that have significantly influenced the way you think and act like they did with Bigger Thomas in Wright’s Native Son. (Do you reject or challenge those social structures?)
- Write about different aspects of your identity and how you fit in to a larger societal group like Walt Whitman in “Song of Myself”
- Write about an experience you have had when you dealt with a mental illness, OR when you knew something that others around you did not see– like the main character Jane in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
CRAFTING A SCENE
Choose one of the narratives prompts that you wrote on. Find a place in what you wrote where you could add some extra detail to give the reader a more vivid picture of what is happening in the experience you are writing about. In that place, we will be adding more detail, or, “crafting a scene.”
What do we mean by “crafting a scene”?
A scene is a moment in time. It most often includes three elements:
- the use of specific, sensory detail to slow down action;
- the use of dialogue to develop characters and situations;
- and the use of a strong narrator voice.
DIRECTIONS: For each example below (examples from published narratives by famous writers), find what techniques the author used to convey detail. Write a sentence for your own narrative using one of those techniques, in order to give more detail or a better description of that particular moment in your narrative.
- I met Old Lady Chong once, and that was enough. She had a peculiar smell, like a baby that had done something in its pants, and her fingers felt like a dead person’s, like an old peach I once found in the back of the refrigerator: its skin just slid off the flesh when I picked it up.
-Amy Tan, “Two Kinds”
(In this example: imagery, smell, touch, colon ( : ), short sentence followed by a long sentence.
- In a sense, everything I have ever written has been for him, to win his approval even though I know my father can’t read English words, even though my father’s only reading includes the brown-ink Esto sports magazines from Mexico City and the bloody ¡Alarma! Magazines that feature yet another sighting of La Virgen de Guadalupe on a tortilla or a wife’s revenge on her philandering husband by bashing his skull in with a molcajete (a kitchen mortar made of volcanic rock). Or the fotonovelas, the little picture paperbacks with tragedy and trauma erupting from the characters’ mouth in bubbles.
-Sandra Cisneros, “Only Daughter”
(In this example, long sentence followed by short sentence, descriptive details, details that tell you about a character, run-on sentence, repeated words/phrases)
- When I was in college and in my early 20s, the world was full of pop songs that got me ready to go out, helped me power through the night and accompanied my taxi rides home after some questionable choices. Once I hit 30, though, I found myself woefully lacking a soundtrack to my social life. Where are the songs to pump me up for a dinner that starts past my normal bed time? A song to play while I take the bus home from birthday drinks at a reasonable hour because I have pilates the next morning? A banger while I look into the terms of my 401k? All that changed this weekend when Drake released “Nice for What”: the 30-something going-out song I’ve been waiting for.
-Nora Taylor, “Definitive Proof That I Am Drake’s Most Recent Muse”
(In this example, questions, series of questions, using different words to say the same thing (song, soundtrack, banger),
- At nine years old, I started grappling with sudden, frequent panic attacks. At the time, neither my parents nor I could understand what was happening to me. I appeared to be experiencing seizure-like convulsions — sweating, shaking, panting — but on the inside, I felt paralyzed with fear, with no control over my mind or body.
“When is it going to stop?” I’d ask my mom.
“It should be over by next week,” she’d respond, as if we were in the midst of a war that was rumored to end soon.
-Bonnie Azoulay via MR
(In this example: dialogue (when characters/people talk), dashes, simile)
What technique did you use that worked the best for you? How did it help make your experience a more vivid picture for the reader?
Write the sentence you will use in your narrative.
John Baldessari, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, 1971, lithograph, 22-7/16 x 30-1/16 inches (The Museum of Modern Art).