So, you’ve been asked to do some creative writing, specifically, a narrative intervention on a text studied in class. Cue: Student panic.
Firstly, I want to reassure students with this: Categorically, this is the task that students surprise themselves with the most. Especially, wait for it, boys. Every year my students inspire me with their creativity and insight with their treatment of a novel and its characterisation. Every year my boys moan about this task, roll their eyes and dread the weeks ahead. And every year, without fail, my boys outperform their expectations and even enjoy the task.
What’s the trick?
Observation and mimicry.
Just as the lyrebird has learnt to listen and mimic the sounds it hears in the surrounding bush, so too must you watch, practise and apply the techniques used by the author to recreate their style and to create your own perspective of a gap or silence within the text.
Similarly, just as an essay has various parts that work together as a whole, there are layers to the narrative intervention. There are 4 principle layers that work towards the development of a successful narrative:
- Know your character: values, attitudes, ideas, quotes, idiosyncrasies
- Know your context: cultural assumptions, time, place and setting
- Know your gap: What has happened, what is going to happen and how can you elude to future events (foreshadow)
- Know your aesthetics: What techniques are used by the author? How do they write? Is there a motif? How can you manipulate it?
You cannot have 3 layers in your narrative and disregard the other. To achieve the best possible results, you must effectively build each layer so that in the end, your writing is almost indistinguishable from that of the author’s. It must be authentic and believable.
- Implausible leaps in plot
- Retelling what has happened
- Over description of any kind
- Inconsistency of character
- Insufficient length (short or too long)