WRITING PROMPTS 4 Narrative modes


Does the idea of using a writing prompt fill you with horror? 'As if I don’t have enough to do,' we hear you say. The intention of this series of prompts by Caroline Deacon is to help you with your existing writing projects. Please feel free to cherry pick, use what is helpful and discard the rest. 


There are several ways you could use these prompts. Some people might find them useful as warm ups; others might use them as tools to unstick themselves. I’m not going to be prescriptive - use them how you will, and if you post your writing on the SCBWI Facebook page and tag me, I’ll try to comment.


Narrative modes


There are five ways to narrate a story: dialogue, description, action, thoughts (interior monologue) and exposition. All of them are useful in varying ways, but it's helpful if you're aware which one you’re using at any given time and why you’ve chosen it. So here’s a little exercise to raise awareness. I’m using fairy stories, but you could try these on your own writing as well.


Most fairy stories lean heavily on exposition. Your challenge is to re-write the opening of Cinderella and avoid exposition. Once upon a time there was… (This is exposition.)


Have a go:


Open with dialogue between Cinderella and another character.


Then try showing Cinderella sweeping the fireplace for instance, then invite arriving for the ball, and events unfolding from there, maybe mixing action and description modes.


Try opening with Cinderella’s interior monologue.


You’ll find you can’t really stick to just one for the whole thing, but hopefully it's interesting to try avoiding exposition when your brain is used to it.


And then for your own writing, try moving between the different modes there as well. It can be fun to do it all as exposition, just to see what it feels like. (You might even create a synopsis or a working summary.)

Header image: Claire Watts; all other images Caroline's own

Caroline Deacon worked for many years as a creative writing tutor. She is agented by Lindsay Fraser of Fraser Ross Associates, Edinburgh. Find her on Twitter @writingdilemmas and at www.carolinedeacon.com Her monthly newsletter offers free writing prompts and feedback to subscribers

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