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Narrative writing, part 2 – description

Narrative writing, part 2 – description

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Now you know the basic structure of a narrative, you can practice making your story more interesting. One way to do this is description. Think about how the people in the story feel. What can they see, hear, smell and taste?

The simplest way to make your writing more descriptive is to use adjectives and adverbs.  These “describing words” tell us more information about an object, person or place (adjectives), or an action (adverbs).

Adjectives answer questions like “What kind?”, “Which one?”, or “How many?”

e.g.

  • “What size of shirt do you wear?”  “I wear a medium shirt”.
  • “Which one do you prefer?”  “The red one”.
  • “How many sandwiches did you eat?”  “Several”.

Adverbs answer questions like “How?”, “Where” and “When?”

e.g.     

  • “When did you wake up?”  “I woke up early”.
  • “How did he get there?”  “He ran quickly”.
  • “Where does the dog sleep?”  “She sleeps outside”.
  • “How big is it?”  “Really big!”

Look at the sentence below.  It has no adjectives or adverbs.  

“John sat down next to his friends, Sophie and Stephen. They were also students. They drank coffee and ate cake.”

Let’s add some adjectives. Start by asking questions. What kind of friends? What kind of students? Use the answers to these questions to make your writing more descriptive. For example:

“John sat down next to his old friends, Sophie and Stephen. They were also language students. They drank hot coffee, and ate chocolate cake. It was delicious.”

Does their meal sound good?  What if we change some of the adjectives?

“John sat down next to his new friends, Sophie and Stephen. They were also overseas students. They drank cold coffee, and ate orange cake. It was awful.”

Does the sentence have the same meaning?  Did the description change your feelings about the situation?

You can also use adverbs to describe verbs, or even to describe adjectives:

“John sat down happily next to his old friends, Sophie and Stephen. They were also language students.  They slowly drank hot coffee, and hungrily ate chocolate cake. It was absolutely delicious!”

Compare this with the original sentence:

“John sat down next to his friends, Sophie and Stephen. They were also students. They drank coffee and ate cake.”

Which one is more interesting?  Which one gives us more information?

Now you are ready to start writing your own stories!  If you need practice, please come to Study Support (Building 108, Level 3) and ask us for help with writing a narrative.  We look forward to seeing you!

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