Narrative Storytelling Techniques
Narrative storytelling techniques are the method and means behind interesting narrative stories. Techniques like point of view, flashbacks, foreshadowing and tone all move the narrative process along, propelling the reader through completion of the story. These and other narrative techniques ground the reader in the current story while creating a framework and means of connection with other works that leaves a lasting impression long after the story is done.
Point of View
Point of view is the perspective the author chooses to use when writing a story. POV determines who is telling the story and how it is being told. First person or direct narration is told from the point of view of the storyteller. Third person omniscient or frame narration allows the reader to see the viewpoint of all individuals in the story, including information other characters may not know. Most narratives will maintain one POV throughout the entire story, but some authors use POV shift as a writing technique to provide the reader with more detailed information or a different understanding.
A flashback reveals something about the story or characters that the reader doesn't know. Flashbacks often set up events that will occur in the story or explain a character’s motives based on past behavior. Toni Morrison employed flashbacks heavily to explain the death of Sethe’s children in the novel "Beloved," information not otherwise shared in the story. Flashbacks can provide important background information that can both clarify and move the story forward, as long as they do not confuse the reader.
Foreshadowing is a technique used to hint at things to come. The purpose is to create tension within the reader by insinuating possible scenarios for later use in the story. For example, a suicidal individual who discovers a hidden gun early in the story plants a seed in the reader’s mind about its ultimate use. Foreshadowing can be a useful technique to suggest situations for later resolution.
Tone is the way in which a writer expresses himself in a story, using diction or word choice and imagery. Often authors convey tone through the style of their writing, such as Voltaire’s use of satire in "Candide" or Steinbeck’s derisive tone through the character of “George” in "Of Mice and Men." Tone helps the author communicate his feelings toward particular issues and regarding certain characters. This in turn helps the reader determine how to feel about the subject matter.
- Harbrace College Handbook: John C. Hodges, et al.
- Nebraska Center for Writers: Anton Chekhov on Writing
- Steps to Writing Well Sixth Edition: Jean Wyrick
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images