Narrative

Narrative

A good story will not simply present the facts, it will tie them together to create a larger picture from the segmented pieces. It will draw the reader through the experience of discovery. It will be a journey.

Familiarity with Aristotelian narrative structure [LINK: http://www.psu.edu/dept/inart10_110/inart10/narr.html] will come in handy here.

1. Exposition

This is where you set the tone of your piece and introduce the subjects.

For our purposes, let’s say our story is about a cow who survived an encounter with a freight train. The exposition is where we will meet our cow. Her name is Bessie. It is a warm, Spring evening. Bessie smells flowers and wants to eat them.

2. Rising action

This is where you describe how events are conspiring to make things interesting for your subject.

The farmer has left the gate open, and Bessie, smelling flowers, has decided to go for a stroll. She quickly wanders farther and farther away from the farm, towards the train tracks, where the flowers are nurtured by manure falling from the overfull trains as they pass by.

3. Inciting event

This is where we begin to suspect that conflict may occur. It is also where to share a humorous side note, if you have one.

Bessie discovers that the freshest flowers are on the road bed of the train tracks themselves. She steps onto the tracks. She does not see that a train is approaching.

Humorous side note: The train engineer (Bob) is terrified of cows. This is why he is a train engineer, and not a farmer. Bob grew up on a farm. The huge, smelly cows intimidated him. He had nightmares. Still does. Every night Bob wakes up drenched in sweat. His recurring nightmare is of riding on a ghostly train in the middle of the night towards a giant, mooing cow who is going to eat him forever, like cud. His wife thinks this is hilarious. Bob thinks it’s hell. He doesn’t sleep much.

4. Obligatory moment

This is where something happens that makes conflict seem inevitable. 

The train rounds the bend. There, standing in the bright glare of the headlight, is Bessie.

Bob is half-awake, He had been dozing. He opens his eyes and sees Bessie standing on the tracks. Bessie looks up at him. Bessie moos.

Bob, at long last coming face-to-face with the specter of his nightmares come to life, has a heart attack. There is no one to stop the train. Bessie is doomed.

5. Climax

This is where we expand time to address the circumstances surrounding the terrible moment that is about to ensue. 

Bessie, who has until now been munching flowers, blissfully ignorant of her impending peril, sees the train. She panics. She does not know what to do. The train’s engine is at full speed. It is barreling down the tracks toward Bessie. Bessie is frozen.

Bessie Moos.

6. Deus Ex Machina

This is where unexpected events conspire to resolve our conflict.

The farmer arrives. He slaps Bessie on the bottom and she steps off of the tracks just as the train passes by, dropping clumps of manure.

Bessie is saved.

7. Denouement

This is where the pressure of the climax is released and we close our story.

On her way back to the farm, Bessie ruminates on what she has learned: trains make flowers. She will return to those tracks again.

Meanwhile, Bob recovers from his heart attack. He decides he has not gotten far enough away from the farm life that terrified him as a youth. He decides to leave the country and go somewhere far away. Somewhere where there will be fewer cows. He knows nothing about the world. He spins the globe and places his finger at random. It lands on India.