How to Write a Report in the Narrative Form
Narrative writing—writing that tells a story—is well suited to reports that relate events with a beginning, middle and end. Police officers describing an accident, human resource professionals explaining employee misconduct and doctors describing operations frequently write reports in the narrative form because a chronological recounting of events is often the best way for others to understand them. Also adding to the appeal of narrative reports is that the focus remains on people, their motivations, and their actions.
Review the principles of narrative writing. You can find these in many places, one of which is Northern Illinois University’s website. In particular, note this website’s advice that you should add the time element to your stories, provide many details and concentrate on, “people, about the decisions they make and the consequences that follow.”
Decide which form of narrative is most appropriate for your purpose. For example, as the university explains, you can narrate without dialogue or you can tell the story by painting a picture, scene by scene, while quoting everyone involved.
Write in the first person if you want people to know you witnessed these events, as the online writing lab at Roane State Community College in Tennessee suggests. Reserve this for reports in which objectivity is not required.
Prepare a rough draft quickly by answering the five W’s: who, what, where, when and why. For example, start out with, “A teenage driver who was talking on his cell phone lost control of his car and veered over the double yellow lines on Highway 101, colliding with several cars traveling in the opposite direction.”
Expand on the rough draft by filling in more details and adding quotes. Describe the teenager by height, weight, and other pertinent physical characteristics. Explain how you know he was talking on his cell phone and how many cars he ended up colliding with.
Add anecdotes to the narrative, if possible. These can help you make a point and add clarity. For example, if you are narrating an argument between employees for a human resources report, explain the scene, time of day and exactly what was said. This creates a mental picture of the events.
Borrow techniques from fiction writers by using plot and characterization, as suggested by The Writing Site. After setting the scene, describe the rising action, climax and resolution. Describe characters by mentioning personal quirks and habits.
Create names for those involved if you are not permitted to use their real names. For confidential reports you can say, “Driver No. 1” or “Stock Room Employees.”
Michele Vrouvas has been writing professionally since 2007. In addition to articles for online publications, she is a litigation paralegal and has been a reporter for several local newspapers. A former teacher, Vrouvas also worked as a professional cook for five years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Caldwell College.