The Language of Narration

In Comprehension Question A, you might be asked to read an extract from a novel or short story. In the last question, you may be asked to highlight the elements of the language of narration or you may be asked to explain why you thought it was an engaging piece of work. Either way, the examiner is looking for the following features that may have been evident in the text. You must be able to explain these terms using suitable examples from the extract to explain your point.

Setting: Where the narrator gives the reader a vivid description of where the story is set. Does the writer make use of the five senses in order to help the reader to build a picture of where the characters are?

Characterisation: This is where the writer creates memorable characters that readers can relate to. Many of the best characters have flaws, which highlight their human qualities and allow readers to engage with them on a personal level. Realistic characters are key in good writing.

Dialogue: Dialogue allows the readers to make their own impressions on both the characters and the events without the writer telling them what to think. Dialogue allows the writer to ‘show’ or ‘suggest’ rather than tell the reader, which encourages closer engagement from the reader.

Conflict: Stories need conflict in order to create suspense or drama. There can be both internal conflict and external conflict in a story. Internal conflict will have characters who are in a conflict with themselves. (Example: Alcoholics, drug addicts, gamblers) External conflicts can be between two people, a person versus society, a person versus nature etc.. Think of two people pulling a rope, this is an example of conflict, each person is pulling in the opposite direction and wants different things. Without conflict, the story is going nowhere.

Suspense/Tension: A good writer will build suspense throughout the story in a way that keeps the reader intrigued. For example, if a character is searching for his long lost brother, there will be a few situations where the reader thinks that he has found him, but it turns out to be a false alarm. This raises the suspense and the reader really wants the main character to get what he wants.

Flashback: Writers makes use of flashback to allow the telling of a back story, which may be necessary for the story to unfold. For example, a character who is a police officer may have a past that he is running from, which is not apparent when we first meet them.


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