UNIT Narratives

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Look at the two photographs which show the beginning and end of a story, as well as the list of words below, and guess what the story is about.

lawyer, office security guard, moonlit sky, chilly, cashmere coat, grab, grow worried, police chief, reward, organising fund-raising events, shelter, homeless, hostel, counsellor, ragged clothes, tramp, frown

2 O Read the questions below, then listen to the cassette and answer them. Finally, looking at your answers, retell the story.

1 Who is the story about?

2 Where is John?

3 What is the weather like?

4 What time of year is it?

5 What happens to him?

6 How does Miriam feel?

7 What does Miriam do?

8 How does she find John?

MET A narrati /f your owr

. narrative presents a connected series of events, either imaginary or based on your own experience, in a vivid descriptive style. It may be written in the first person J (l/we) or third person (he/she,etc), and often includes the thoughts, reactions, etc of the main character(s), describing the action as it would be seen through their eyes.

A good narrative should consist of:

a) an introduction which sets the scene (place, time, character(s), etc), creates an interesting mood/atmosphere to make the reader want to continue reading, and/or begins dramatically to capture the reader's attention;

b) a main body which develops the series of events clearly, gives vivid description of the people/places involved, etc; and c) a conclusion which completes the story, perhaps in an unexpected way, and may describe people's feelings/reactions, the consequences of what happened, etc.

Points to Consider

Before you start writing, you must first think of a suitable story outline, then you should decide on a detailed plot, including how the story will begin, who the characters will be, where the story will happen, the events in the order you will present them, and how the story will end.

Writing techniques include the use of vivid description of people, places, objects, etc, especially to set the scene at the beginning of the story; description of feelings and actions, suggesting a certain mood/atmosphere; the use of direct speech and a variety of adjectives, adverbs, etc. This will make your writing more interesting.

Narratives are normally set in the past, and therefore use a variety of past tenses. For example, Past Continuous is often used to set the scene (e.g. The wind was howling...) , Past Simple is used for the main events (e.g. He entered the room, looked around, and...); Past Perfect is used to describe an event before the main event(s) (e.g. She had set out in the morning, full of hope, but now she felt...).

The sequence of events is important; therefore you must use time words such as: before, after, then, in the beginning, later, in the end, until, while, during, finally, etc

Paragraph 1 set the scene


Main Body

Paragraphs 2-3-4

develop the story

(describe incidents lea up to the main event s the event itself in detai describe people/plaa emotions/actions/etc)


Final Paragraph end the story

(complete the plot; describe feelings/reac tions; explain the cons quences)

3 Read the story below and complete the tasks in the box on the right.

The Visitor

A cold feeling of shock gripped me as I stared at the splintered, shattered wood of my front door. The lock hung, twisted out of shape, having been forced violently apart, and I felt my pulse quicken as I noticed that the door was ajar.

Scarcely breathing, I pushed it lightly with my fingertips and it swung open with the slightest groan. Inside, the house was deathly silent. I tiptoed down the hall, peering into the rooms on either side. They stared blankly back at me, deserted and unchanged, revealing nothing. There were no burglars still inside, or so it seemed.

As far as I could see, there was nothing missing. I heaved a sigh of relief at finding my precious collection of crystal untouched, and my heartbeat slowed as my initial shock subsided. Somebody had certainly broken in — but why?

At the far end of the passageway I hesitated, puzzled, then cautiously climbed the stairs. As I neared the top, there was a noise; a light, hurried, scrabbling sound like one that mice might make, only coming from something rather bigger. I turned quickly towards my open bedroom do or, only to be confronted by the strangest sight: an elderly man lying uncomfortably face-down on the floor, his plump, flushed cheek pressed against the carpet, which had been pulled back to reveal the floorboards underneath.

There he was with his right arm thrust down into a gap between the boards.

"What on earth are you doing?" I demanded.

He rolled himself slowly into a sitting position and ruffled his thinning hair, looking embarrassed. "I'm sorry," he mumbled. "I used to live in this house and I put a box down here with my savings and some papers to keep them safe." He brushed thick dust and cobwebs off his shirt and sighed. "But when I moved out I forgot, and I didn't know if you would let me have them. What else could I do?"

A List the events referred to in each paragraph.

1 writer returns - door broken

4 goes upstairs - hears noise -sees stranger in bedroom

B Underline the words/phrases in each paragraph which describe or suggest the emotions listed below.

1 shock/fear

2 fear/apprehension

3 relief

4 uncertainty/surprise

5 surprise/anger

6 embarrassment

Set the scene

The beginning of a narrative story should usually give the reader a clear picture of what is happening, and may include descriptions of:

- setting: place, time (time of day/year, historical period), weather, etc;

- people: name, appearance, feelings, etc of the character(s) involved.

Vivid description is important when beginning stories. To describe the setting, you may use details involving the senses to suggest a particular atmosphere (e.g. lapping waves, soft sand = peaceful scene). When describing people/actions, you may use vivid description of emotions, mannerisms, etc to suggest a particular mood (e.g. "Stunned, she sat down shakily and buried her face in her hands. " = shock, grief)

A dramatic beginning to a narrative helps to capture the reader's attention and makes them want to continue reading. Sudden or exciting action, description of strong emotions, the use of direct speech and a variety of adjectives, adverbs and verbs may all be used to make the beginning more dramatic.

You may create an atmosphere of mystery and/or suspense by describing a strange character, a dangerous situation, etc.

4 Look at the photograph on the right which shows the scene introducing a story, and answer the questions about how you imagine the story might begin.

When and where is the story set? What is the weather like? Who are the people involved, and how do they feel? What would you see, hear, etc if you were physically present at the scene?

How might the story continue?

5 Read the paragraph below about the photograph in Ex. 4 to see whether the story is as you had predicted. Underline all references to the senses, and the words/phrases describing emotions. Then answer the questions from Ex. 4 again, based on what you have read.

The cool of the morning turned quickly to scorching heat as the sun rose higher and began to beat down relentlessly. Doctor McLintock took off his cardigan while he and his two companions continued to trudge up the slope towards the village. The smell of parched earth and dry scrub filled the doctor's nostrils, and the heat of the stony track burned the soles of his feet through his thin shoes. Apart from the occasional call of a bird and the strained breathing of the three men there was absolute silence. Oppressed by the monotony of the barren African landscape, the doctor turned to Michael and sighed, "Is it much further?" Then he looked at Gideon and Michael's anxious faces and added gently, "I'm sure she'll be all right."

6 Describe the photograph below using the words/phrases given, then write a paragraph setting the scene for a story.

Tom crouched staring dense undergrowth sweat cuts on cheek flies buzzing motionless humidity heart pounding holding breath rustle of branches

Clipart Shoes

Techniques for beginning or ending stories

/F* • A good beginning is as important as a good ending. A good beginning j should make your reader want to go on with your story. A good ending will make your reader feel satisfied.

You can start your story by:

a. describing the weather, place, people, etc, using the senses b. using direct speech c. asking a rhetorical question d. creating mystery or suspense e. referring to feelings or moods f. addressing the reader directly

You can end your story by:

a. using direct speech b. referring to feelings or moods c. describing people's reactions to the events developed in the main body d. creating mystery or suspense e. asking a rhetorical question

• Note that more than one technique can be used in the beginning or ending of a story.

7 Match the following beginnings a endings, then say which techniqi have been used in each paragraph

1 Brightly-coloured fish swam among th coral, and ribbons of seaweed reachei upward to the sunlight on the surface c the sea. I gazed with happiness and wor der at the underwater world around me Then a sudden movement caught my ey and I turned to see a huge, sleek shap hurtling toward me.

2 "Don't move!" a voice hissed. Steve froze, peering at the shape of a thin figur in a long coat, standing in the shadows. * dustbin clattered in the alley outside, an the figure turned sharply, dim light glintin off the barrel of a gun. Steven launche himself at the figure, as the flash and crac of a gunshot filled the bare concrete roorr

3 Have you ever had one of those days whe everything goes wrong? When your alarr clock doesn't ring, and you race out of th house in a panic, desperately putting o your jacket, only to find that the car won start and the bus drivers are on strike? Lf me assure you that such minor inconver iences pale into insignificance beside th catastrophes I endured yesterday.

A After such a terrible day, I was happier tha ever to reach the safety of my home. As poured myself a strong coffee, I closed m eyes for a moment and asked mysel "Why did this have to happen to me?"

B When I awoke, I was lying in a hospital be with medical staff peering down at me. felt exhausted but relieved, aid all I reall remember was one of the doctors sayin* "You're lucky to be alive."

C The sunlight hurt his eyes as he reache the end of the tunnel. He stopped, li: tened, and breathed a sigh of relief whe there was no sound of footsteps behin him. Then, as he crept out of the tunnel, figure stepped forward to bar his way: thin figure in a long coat, laughing softly.

Before you start writing, you must think of a basic story outline for a story which is both:

i) appropriate to the title/instructions for the task; and ii) manageable - that is, does not need specialised knowledge and/or vocabulary which is too advanced for you, and does not contain too many events for you to write about fully in 350 words.

8 Answer the following questions about the three suggested story outlines on the right.

1 Which basic story outline is not appropriate to the title/instructions given? Why not? e.g. B - because the "act" is not really "heroic"

2 Which story outline, when written as a full narrative, would need very advanced or specialised vocabulary?

3 Which would need specialised knowledge of a particular subject?

4 Which contains too many events to write about fully in 350 words?

5 Which story outline, therefore, is both appropriate and manageable?

Write a story with the title "A Heroic Act".

A • Two boys are playing by a canal. One falls in. • An ex-policeman sees them, dives in and rescues the drowning boy. • The boy survives and is now learning to swim. B • When you were at university you had an important exam. . For three days you studied day and night; you hardly slept or ate, and went nowhere. • You took the exam and passed.

C • During World War II, a young partisan goes behind enemy lines to blow up a key bridge. • He impersonates an enemy officer to get access to enemy information. • He establishes a system for passing this information to Allied Headquarters, with the cooperation of a beautiful woman who is later captured. . He succeeds in disrupting the enemy's supply line, but he is injured in an explosion and loses his memory for several months.

Past Tenses and Time Words

/ • PAST HABITS are not described using Past Continuous. Instead, use Past Simple, "used to" or "would", with an appropriate adverb of frequency. e.g. When I was a child, my father often (etc) told/sometimes used to tell/

would always tell me stories to get me to fall asleep. Adverbs of Frequency: always - usually - frequently/often -sometimes/ occasionally - seldom/rarely - never

PAST CONTINUOUS is used to talk about an action in the past which:

- was going on at the same time as another action

- was interrupted by another action

- happened at an exact time e.g. I was watching TV while he was trying to phone.

when there was a knock on the door. at 3 o'clock yesterday. Time Words/Phrases: (at the same time) as - meanwhile - when - while

PAST PERFECT is used to talk about an action which happened before another past action.

e.g. By the time I arrived, my friends had already left. Time Words/Phrases: after - as soon as - before - by the time-no sooner - not until - once - (only) when

9 Read the following short text and fili in the gaps using words/phrases froir the list below, then identify the tenst of each verb in bold type and explair why this tense has been used.

after, before, by the time, meanwhile, sometimes, when, while, until

2) be left at home alone

One day, 3) I was playing with my dolls, I decided to cook a propei meal for my "children". I had watched m\

mother making chips 4)

and so, 5) I had put a pan ol oil on the gas ring to heat up, I began tc peel potatoes carefully 6)

the oil was getting hotter and hotter, and

8) I had finished, clouds oi smoke were rising from the pan. Trying tc lift the red-hot pan, I spilt the oil, and huge flames instantly leapt upward, setting fire to the kitchen curtains.


Some words, especially adverbs of frequency and time words/phrases, are followed by Inversion when they are used at the beginning of a sentence, e.g. Jamie had never imagined that he would find Nmsetf in such a situation. Never had Jamie imagined that he would find Nmsetf in such a situation.

The words/phrases followed by inversion are negative in meaning:

Never (beforeIagain), No sooner, No longer, Nowhere Not often, Not always; Not only (... but also)

Seldom/Rarely = "not often'; HanSy aver/anywhere - 'almost never/nowhere'

* Not until, Not before

* Only when = 'not until/before', Only If = 'not unless'

e.g. No aooner had I stepped under the shower than the doorbell rang. Not only was I exhausted, but also extremely hungry.

* Notice that "Not until/before" and "Only when/if" are followed by inversion In the second part of the sentence.

e.g. » Not una It grew dark did they stop searcNng for the missing dog.

10 Look at the following 'skeleton' sentences and, using the appropriate tenses, write a complete sentence from each skeleton as in the example. Then rewrite each sentence beginning with the word(s) in bold type.

e.g. I! no sooner / sit down / my seat I curtain rise / play begin i had no sooner sat down in my seat than the curtain rose and the play began No sooner had Ijgt down in my seat than the curtain rose and the play began

1 Lights / be / rarely / on / in j museum / midnight, / so 11 realise I something strange / happen / that night

2 It / be I not until / he / tell I Linda / his name / she / recognise i Eric, / who / use / be / schoolfriend / hers

3 Rollercoaster / no sooner / start / move /1 know /1 make / terrible mistake / by I agree / get on

4 Cathy's front door / not only / stand wide open / when she / get / home, / but / lock / be / also / broken

5 We I seldom / use / enjoy / visit / my grandparents / when 11 be / child because I they / be / often / strict / us

11 D You will hear a woman telling her friend about the time she nearly drowned. Number the following list of events in the chronological order in which you think they happened, then listen to the cassette and check your answers. Finally, retell the story in your own words.

12 Look at the task instructions below, together with the beginning/ending of a story on each topic, and decide on a suitable plot for each story.

A Write a story entitled "The Birthday Party".

Ending: Suddenly the lights went on and a chorus of happy voices yelled, "Surprise!"

B Write a story that begins: "She took the piece of paper out of her pocket and reached for the phone." Ending: She looked around the luxurious room and smiled at the thought that all her dreams had come true.

C Write a story that ends: "At last he was free."

Beginning: Joe sat on the crowded train, rehearsing his speech one last time.

Descriptive vocabulary

Avoid using simplistic adjectives or adverbs (e.g. good, bed, nice, well, etc) as these will make your composition sound uninteresting. Instead, try to use more sophisticated vocabulary (e.g. luxurious, extravagant, threatening, etc) which will make your composition more exciting to read. A variety of verbs (e.g. murmur, whisper, mutter instead of "say*) will make your story more lively. e.g. 'Oh, don't bother 1' he growled, and atormed out of the room. (Instead of'said', 'werT)

e.g. Jack strode up to me and thrust out his hend.(instead of "walked", "puT)

□ waves (hammer/splash/smash) Q tyres

(clap/flap/rip) (squeal/shout/hiss) (creak/snap/crack) (screech/wail/whistle)

We barely moved under the warm sun, until a stiff breeze began to whistle through the rigging, filling the flapping sails and sending us surging forward. The sparkling waves splashed against the creaking wood of our yacht, flinging salty spray over the deck, while seagulls cried overhead, silhouetted against the fluffy clouds.

13D Look at the two photographs below, and try to imagine what you would hear if you were physically present at each scene, then look at the following list of words. Which photograph do you think each word is related to, and which of the three verbs in brackets describes most accurately the sound you would expect to hear? Finally, listen to the cassette and check your answers.

¡A] breeze (howl/whistle/roar) □ seagulls (twitter/chirp/cry)

□ waves (hammer/splash/smash) Q tyres

(clap/flap/rip) (squeal/shout/hiss) (creak/snap/crack) (screech/wail/whistle)

14 Look at the words below dealing with sensoiy details of sight and touch. Which photograph is each related to, and which of the three words in brackets best matches what you can see in or imagine about each?

[A] sun (blazinq/warm/dull) □ spray (freezing/hot/salty)

Q lightning (spark/flash/bang) □ breeze (gentle/stiff/violent)

f] waves (sparkling/sharp/damp) tarmac (cracked/hot/soft)

wet street (gleam/steam/glitter) □ clouds (heavy/dark/fluffy)

j lights (brilliant/blinding/dim) □ fumes (cloud/trail/puff)

15 Look at the description below of Photograph A; then, using your notes from Exs. 13-14, write a similar description of Photograph B.

16 Look at the photograph below, and try to imagine the scene as if you were physically present. Make notes of the various sensory details you can see or imagine, and the mood/atmosphere which the scene suggests to you. Then list words and phrases which describe these vividly. Finally, write a description of the scene in about 50-75 words.

17 Read the story below and replace the words in bold type with suitable words from the following list.

Para. 1 lingering, rustled, streamed, swirled

Para. 2 evaporated, a flurry, frenzied, an uproar

Para. 3 gathered, rumours, stumbled, stunned, wailed

Para. 4 drifting, in ruins, slumped, stared, tossed

Para. 5 grinning, lifting her head, warmly

Para. 6 admired, autumn, fresh, lit up, radiant, thrilled

Write a story which ends with the words: "She knew the events of the day would change her life for ever."

It was a clear, crisp autumn morning, and the wind made Edith's cheeks tingle pleasantly as she walked briskly to work. Pale sunlight shone through the bare branches of the trees lining the road, and fallen leaves moved and made a noise round her feet, while the smell of bonfires staying in the air brought back nostalgic memories of her childhood half a century ago.

Her contentment went away, however, the moment she reached the office, where she was greeted by the noise of angry voices and a lot of quick activity. Puzzled, she asked innocently what was wrong.

"We've been taken over by another company," someone said hysterically, "and they've fired everyone!" Edith's heart sank; she had refused to believe office stories of the takeover, and now she felt lost and afraid. She had no idea what she could do, or where she should go. Very surprised, she didn't even take off her coat, but simply took a few personal possessions from her desk before she turned and walked blindly out of the office.

Slowly making her way to the park, Edith sat dejectedly on a bench and looked at the ducks moving on the river. After thirty years of loyal service, she told herself bitterly, she had been put aside, and her life was not good. No one would hire an elderly secretary who knew nothing about computers.

Then a familiar voice suddenly interrupted her thoughts: "Cheer up, Edith - it's not the end of the world!" Looking up, she saw her boss, Mr Blake, smiling happily. As soon as he had heard about the takeover, he explained, he had decided to make other plans, and had bought a small hotel in the south of France. "My wife and I need a housekeeper," he continued nicely, "and you'd be perfect for the job."

Edith looked at the beautiful colours of the fallen leaves and realised instinctively that this was the chance of her dreams. She was happy at the idea of making a new start in the later part of her life, and a big smile was seen on her face. She knew the events of that day would change her life for ever.

18 Read the model again, and idei which techniques for beginning a s have been used in the first paragn Then underline the time wordslphrt Finally, identify the main events emotions in each paragraph.

19 Put the following descriptive vt into the correct categories, and t add as many words as you can th of to each category.

A glance, glimpse, inspect, nod, pi peer, plod, saunter, signal, step, str squint, trudge, wander gestures shrug wave

B Now do the same with the following words and categories.

bellow, clutch, crush, dash, embrace Jump, plunge, sprint, glare, grasp. grimace, grin, groan, mumble, mutter, roar, scowl, seize, shout, slither, smirk, snatch, sneer, tiptoe

20 Complete the following excerpt by replacing the verbs in brackets with words from the list below, making any changes necessary.

spot - glance - creep ■ sprint ■ glare - grin ■ glimpse • dart ■ pause - stride

Stella was suddenly reminded of herself and Gregory, many years before, playing a game of hide-and-seek. Crouch,ng she had 1} crtftt (come) out from her hiding place behind a hedge. Across the lawn she had 2)

(see) Gregory heading for some trees. 3)

(Come) out, she had raced across the open grass, quickly 4) . (look) towards Gregory to see what he was doing' She 5) (stop) briefly to rest beside a bush, then dashed on again, making her attempt to run for

Suddenly, she realised he had 6) iseej her, as Gregory was 7) (walk) straight towards her Yor a little while, she thought she still might make ,t by

8) (run) her hardest, but Gregory was already

9 ) (smile) triumphantly. Reaching the tin that marked' base, he casually kicked it over. She stopped short, out of breath, and 10) «<**) at him angnly.

21 Read the following descriptions and underline the descriptive words or phrases describing manner and mannerisms, then circle the adverbs and adjectives used in each sentence. Finally, write each description in simplified form, as in the example, and say what emotions and or personality characteristics are suggested in each description.

eg. Sarah strode (friskjv) to the window, then stood with legs apart and her hands on her hips, listening^ntcntjv^hcr head cocked to one side.

Sarah went to the window and listened carefully, (impatient, aggressive)

1 Daphne sprawled on the sofa, noisily leafing through the glossy pages of her magazine as she chewed gum and slurped a soft drink.

2 His brows knitted. Alex stared blankly at the computer screen, scratching the back of his head and drumming his fingers on the table, then he sighed deeply and reluctantly reached for the phone.

3 The children stopped abruptly and gazed at the shop window with wide, unblinking eyes, nudging each other and pointing at the dazzling piles of toys.

22 Fill in the gaps in the following sentences by choosing the most suitable word from those given in brackets and putting it into the correct form.

e.g. "Can't you sit still?" the teacher shouted angrily (shy, angry, cheerful) as the children fidgeted restlessly (restless, abrupt, unexpected).

1 The old man leant

(heavy, sly, wean) on his walking stick and gazed I sad, happv, angry) towards the house where he and his wife had lived until her death.

2 Eleanor muttered

(peace, impatient, content) as*her parents wandered

(slow, quick, imaginative) around her room to make sure it was tidy.

3 The injured cyclist hobbled away

(concern, casual, complicate) stares of the onlookers.

4 The landowner shook his fist

noisy) at the trespassers. "Get off my land or I'll set the dogs on you!* he bellowed „ (furious, soft, proud).

23 Put the following words describing emotions into the correct categories, then add as many words as you can think of to each category. Make sure that you know the various forms of each word (noun, verb, adjective, opposite, etc).

alarm, amused, annoyed, anxious, bliss, calm, cheerful, delighted, depressing, dread, ecstatic, enthusiasm, exhilarating, frightened, glad, irritating, infuriating, miserable, melancholy, mournful, panic, patience, puzzled, regret, satisfaction, stirring, temper, terrified, upset

joy contentment apprehensive horror sœmÉm thrilled stimulating

sadness grief rage furious relieved confusion

24 Fill in the gaps in each of the following sentences by choosing the most appropriate word from those given in brackets and putting it into the correct form, as in the example.

e.g. The job was exciting at first, but when I realised that it offered me no future, I became disillusioned . (fortunelillusionjthrill)

1 After I had walked round the War Museum, I felt at mankind's ability to inflict pain and suffering on others.


2 I found it hard to with him as we both knew that what he had suffered had been nobody's fault but his own.

(apology Ijoy/sympathy)

3 We all clapped and cheered after the performance, hoping that the band would come back on stage.

(thrilllimpatiencelenthusiasm )

4 We were spending the summer holiday in a little cottage near the sea, when disaster suddenly struck.


5 When I saw how much damage the fire had caused and realised that five years' work had been destroyed, I was


25 Replace the numbered words in t following paragraphs with those the lists given.

awful, brightly, extremely, huge, lovely pleasant, raging, terribly, tiny, whisperei

A. There was a 1) big crash of thunder a a flash of lightning. Jess was 2) very frig ened as she sat in her 3) little bed listeni to the 4) bad storm which was 5) happeni outside. She picked up her teddy bear a 6) said to it, "I'm 7) very afraid, but I m try to think of 8) nice things." When J< woke the next morning the sun was shim 9) nicely; it was going to be a 10) good d;

burst, furious, hurled, marched, mutteri peered, rainswept, screaming, glaring, terrif,

B. Steve sat 1) looking at the clock on I wall and 2) saying something to himself, was absolutely 3) angry at being k< waiting. Suddenly he stood up, 4) wall towards the window and 5) looked up a down the 6) wet street. Then, without ; warning, a stranger 7) came in and 8) thr a heavy chair across the room, 9) sayi "You! Get out of here this instant!" St< was 10) afraid, and ran outside withou backward glance.

26 Look at the cartoon drawings below showing actions and mannerisms and write a description of each one, as in the example.

e.g. Brian stood with hands on hips, tapping Wn Ms foot impatiently

& \\ and sufling as he frowned angrily.

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  • susanne
    When l thrust my hands into my pocket l panicked as a composition?
    2 years ago
  • george
    How do go about the starting of the words in a composition like a soft was heard on the door?
    2 years ago
  • Carolyn
    How to start a composition, as he stepped into the office, fear gripped him.?
    8 days ago

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