Language of Narration

Use the ideas below to analyse any piece of narrative writing; and if required, pick out points for a style question on a particular text.

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Features of Narration/Description/Aesthetic

Narrator: Who is narrating the story? Is it first or third person? What effect does this have on the story? A first person narrator offers a more limited – and sometimes biased – view. However it can allow the character to be developed in more depth; the reader can have more access to the narrator’s inner thoughts. What do you learn from the particular first-person narrator and how they view the world and the other characters they share it with? A third person narrator sees much more of the story and often relates it in a more objective way.

Setting: What is the setting of the story? Is it important to the narrative? What effect does it have on the characters? Does it contribute to a particular atmosphere? What details is the reader given about the setting. How is it described? What words (especially adjectives) and/or images (especially metaphors or similes) are used to describe the scene. Is it a familiar, unusual or exotic setting?

Atmosphere: Is there a particular mood or atmosphere created? How does the writer create this atmosphere? What words or images are used that contribute to the atmosphere? Does the atmosphere have an effect on the words or actions of the characters?

Characterisation: What kind of characters are created? How are they created? What words/images/ details are used to bring them to life? Are they realistic/ believable? Do they belong in the setting?  Are the characters consistent in their behaviour? Are they well-drawn/complex or one-dimensional? Are they stereotypical or unusual/original? What is their physical appearance? Is their physical appearance important? Do we learn about a character through their words, actions or from what the other characters tell us?  Do the characters change or develop throughout?  What causes that change to happen? Are we given any sense of their past? Is foreshadowing used to hint at a future occurrence? Do the names of the characters have any significance?

Dialogue: What style of language do the characters use? Is it formal or colloquial? Is slang used? Is there a difference in the way the different characters speak to each other? Is slang used? What effect does this have? Is dialogue used to tell us more about the characters? Is dialogue used to further the plot? Is the way a character speaks consistent with what we know about their character?

Opening: Does the opening engage the reader’s attention from the start? Is suspense created? How? Are questions left in the reader’s mind after the opening that will make us want to read on? Is an interesting character immediately introduced? Is the main conflict introduced at this point?

Plot: Is it unusual/intriguing/original? Is it predictable or clichéd? Is it believable? Does tension build throughout the narrative? When does the climax take place? Are there any anti-climaxes? Are there any inconsistencies or unresolved issues in the plot?

Conflict: Is there a conflict introduced? Where/ when is it introduced? Is it an external conflict or an internal  one. Is it unusual or typical? When/ where is the conflict resolved?  Is it at the climax?

Imagery:  What kind of imagery is used? Is it basic and simple or complex and metaphorical? What effect does the imagery have? Are there interesting/unusual/evocative/clever metaphors or similes used? Do they bring the story to life or confuse the picture? Are many adjectives used? What kind? Is there a pattern? Are they being used to create a particular impression or atmosphere?

Sound: Is onomatopoeia used? Does this contribute to bringing the setting or a particular moment to life? Is alliteration used? Does this contribute to the rhythm of the narrative?  Is sound present in the narrative in any other way?

Language:

  • Sentence length: Is there a variation in sentence length. Are long sentences sometimes followed by shorter more dramatic ones? Does this help in building suspense or contribute to the atmosphere of the narrative?

  • Punctuation: What kind of punctuation is used. Are there long flowing sentences with little punctuation that contribute to a sense of movement or action? Is punctuation used frequently in order to slow down the narrative or in order to build tension/suspense?

  • Vocabulary: Is there a variation in vocabulary? Is the language simple and accessible or are there many words that are unusual? Does this contribute to or damage the quality of the narrative? Is any jargon used?

  • Adjectives : Are many adjectives used? What kind? Is there a pattern? Are they being used to create a particular impression or atmosphere?

  • Verbs/adverbs: What do these words tell the reader about a particular character? Is there a pattern to them? Do they help with characterisation?

  • Senses: Are any other of the senses apart from sight (imagery) and sound used? Touch? Taste? Smell? Do these descriptions help to evoke the scene better?

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English@BanagherCollege

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