As writers, we use narration for many purposes and in varying situations. Most often, when people think of narration, they associate it with fiction or novels–storytelling for entertainment. Yes, this is true, but narration can also be very effective in other writing.

We may choose to recount a historical event through a first-person narrative. Or we may even use a compelling story to persuade an audience to take action.

And stories, irrespective of the genre can cross the barriers of time–past, present, and future–and allow us to experience the similarities between ourselves and through others, real and imagined.

Storytelling knowing your punchline, your ending, knowing that everything you’re saying, from the first sentence to the last, is leading to a singular goal, and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understandings of who we are as human beings. No matter the purpose or situation, there are common elements to narrative writing.

7 Elements of Narrative Writing

One of the prominent narrative elements in any writing is Event. What happened? Who was involved? The event or series of events drives your story.


When and where did it happen? Create and build the story world. This helps to establish context for the story. When this narrative element is not present, you have nothing to share.


Visualization is the hook of any writing. This narrative element makes your story come alive. The ability to use vivid words, sensory details, and figurative language will help to build a dominant impression.


Who’s telling the story? Narratives are often told in the first person or third person. It’s important to choose the appropriate point of view because your entire story is filtered through this perspective and lens.

  • First Person: I, we
  • Second Person: you, your
  • Third Person: he, she, it, they
  • Omniscient Third Person: all-knowing


How does the story unfold? The story should flow and have a clear sense of order. But remember, not all stories start at the beginning. Many stories include flashbacks and flash-forwards. Use transitions (finally, next, later, earlier, three days later, as the season changed from fall to winter, a week passed) to clearly guide your audience through the story.


This narrative element guides the writer. Why does the story matter? Before you even begin composing the story, it’s essential to determine the significance of the event and the purpose of sharing the story. Ask yourself: Why am I sharing this story?


This narrative element is the lifeblood of your story because it brings life to your narrative. Dialogue is conversation or people speaking in your story. The engaging dialogue goes beyond what is simply being said to include a description of non-verbal communication (facial expressions, body movement, changes in tone and speed of speech) and characterization.

The way people speak and interact while talking reveals much about them and the situation. Writing natural-sounding dialogue is not easy. Effective dialogue must serve more than one purpose – it should:

  • Drive the plot forward,
  • Reveal information about the characters, and
  • Build tension or introduce conflict.

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