e-book How to Tell a Story and Other Essays

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If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation. This excerpt from The Climb also captures your attention right away by creating a sense of mystery.

The reader announces that he or she has "this fear" and you want to read on to see what that fear is. It causes my legs to shake. I break out in a cold sweat. I start jabbering to anyone who is nearby. As thoughts of certain death run through my mind, the world appears a precious, treasured place.

Tell me a story

I imagine my own funeral, then shrink back at the implications of where my thoughts are taking me. My stomach feels strange. My palms are clammy. I am terrified of heights. Of course, it's not really a fear of being in a high place. Rather, it is the view of a long way to fall, of rocks far below me and no firm wall between me and the edge. My sense of security is screamingly absent. There are no guardrails, flimsy though I picture them, or other safety devices.

I can rely only on my own surefootedness-or lack thereof. The following narrative essay involves a parent reflecting on taking his kids to Disneyland for the first time. My son Matthew and my daughter Audra endlessly asked me to show them the dreamland of many children, with Mickey Mouse and Snow White walking by and arousing a huge portion of emotions. Therefore, I thought that Disneyland was a good invention for loving parents.

The following essay contains descriptive language that helps to paint a vivid picture for the reader of an interesting encounter. A diminutive middle-aged man came out from behind the trees - the caretaker. He worked a toothbrush-sized stick around in his mouth, digging into the crevices between algae'd stubs of teeth. He was barefoot; he wore a blue batik shirt known as a buba, baggy purple trousers, and an embroidered skullcap.

Narrative Essay Examples

I asked him if he would show me around the shrine. Motioning me to follow, he spat out the results of his stick work and set off down the trail. This excerpt from " Playground Memory " has very good sensory details. However, I have discovered that when reflecting on my childhood, it is not the trips that come to mind, instead there are details from everyday doings; a deck of cards, a silver bank or an ice cream flavor.

One memory that comes to mind belongs to a day of no particular importance. It was late in the fall in Merced, California on the playground of my old elementary school; an overcast day with the wind blowing strong. I stood on the blacktop, pulling my hoodie over my ears. The details are divine, and we should caress them, as Nabokov instructed. In many ways, the practice of writing is a practice of learning to re-see the world.

And we need to just stop saying it to another generation of writers. In the real world, watching our action would be akin to constant dissociation. Instead, we feel things, we say things to ourselves, and eventually we come upon subject matter and then to the scenes. I came into writing nonfiction already believing that my thoughts were messy, convoluted, and not worth much. I then learned that the things that happened to me, the things in the scenes, were my only material.

I had to watch and re-watch the movie of myself from the outside, doing nothing, in moments of great pain that failed to capture the truth of my experience. I looked for important actions in my life—things like burning down the barn or shaving a dying man or catching a trout and gutting it, man things—and saw nothing.

I saw a girl crying a lot. We know that if we reduce ourselves to actions and surface details—what can be seen—many of us will disappear. I came of age when creative nonfiction was just starting to be offered in MFA programs, and so many of my professors were also fiction writers.

I managed to write a wild and weird first book, the story I simply had to tell about my family. But it was so hard and messy, and at the time it felt like a massive failure, even after publication.

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I had this idea that, for my second book, I might make something clean, something with a simple shape. I focused on shutting up, on making scenes, on not gabbing on and on about my thoughts, on not reflecting. I killed it to be pure. To watch and to transcribe.

How to Tell a Story

This was also during the time in which I was numb, watching my life from far away, trying to leave a difficult and abusive situation. Yet all I could do was watch the scene unfurl.

The longer I stayed, the more dramatic it got. Yes, this is true. Good for drama, bad for the character. I thought, somehow, that if I cleansed myself of any reaction, I would be thin as paper and therefore safe. Today the imperative sentence resonates with all the creepiness of forcing someone to keep a secret.

I have been good. I have told many therapists. The easy way to remember the difference between story and narrative is to reshuffle the order of events. A new event order means you have a new narrative of the same story. Narrative turns story into information, or better, into knowledge for the recipient the audience or reader. Narrative is therefore responsible for how the recipient perceives the story.

How to Tell a Story, and Other Essays (FULL Audiobook)

The difficulty is that story, like truth, is an illusion created by narrative. Note that we are talking here about narrative in the dramaturgical sense — not in the social sense. We are pinpointing the use of the term for storytellers creating novels, films, plays, and the like. These tend in their archetypal form to be closed narratives with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

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  5. And Other Essays.

But the story remains the story — even if it is told backwards. Every story features characters that do something, and the total of these actions constitutes the plot. Plot consists of things that happen, i. All of these may be ascribed to the same work. They are different expressions of the same material.

Narrative Essay Examples

The logline and the synopsis describe the story without telling it, in a sentence or a couple of paragraphs respectively. The treatment is a summary of the plot, including some of the most important events, but not all of them. Such a brief version of the story describes the same story as the full or finished version, but since this short version does not include the same amount of events, it is not the same narrative. The step outline describes all the events of the story in narrative order, as a sort of shortened meta-version of the story itself.

While a logline, a synopsis, a treatment, a step outline, and the finished work may all refer to the same story, only the step outline and the finished work can express the same narrative of that story because they contain the same events without leaving any out. And as liars know, leaving out bits of information can change the narrative. An author has choices.