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Last Updated: Apr 26, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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  • Tells a story from someone's personal experience
  • Focuses on a given period in time

  Remember, a good narrative:

  • Establishes a clear point of view·         

  • Focuses closely on an actual person, place or thing

  • Makes the reader think about the issue

  • Makes the reader experience the emotions of the character(s).

  • Teaches the reader a lesson

Types of nonfiction narratives:  Biographies; Memoirs; Autobiographies; Diaries, Personal Reflections, or Creative Narrative Style (employs literary techniques, like storytelling to present factual matter).

Author's Purpose:  To inform; to pursuade; to explain.



"Mrs. Hamilton used to sit in a large chair in the middle of the room, with a heavy cowskin always by her side, and scarce an hour passed during the day but was marked by the blood of one of these slaves. The girls seldom passed her without her saying, "Move faster, you black gip!" at the same time giving them a blow with the cowskin over the head or shoulders, often drawing the blood. She would then say, "Take that, you black gip!" — continuing, "If you don't move faster, I'll move you!" Added to the cruel lashings to which these slaves were subjected, they were kept nearly half-starved. They seldom knew what it was to eat a full meal."

(from Life of an American Slave by Frederick Douglass)

The primary purpose of narrative writing is to describe a personal experience, event, or sequence of events in the form of a true story.




How can you best understand people or events you are researching?  By discovering what they were thinking or feeling at the given time. 

You can do this by consulting primary sources.  These include historic documents, speeches, interviews and even historical artifacts and places.

Primary sources are important because you are reading about the person’s original thoughts and experiences, not someone else’s interpretation or analysis of them.  Primary sources allow you to get as close as you can to the people who lived in, and events that happened in, the past.

Here are some examples of primary sources:

  • A book of letters by pioneer women              

  • Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural address          

  • The Constitution

  • Maya Angelou’s autobiography Address        

  • An interview with a musician              

  • An actor’s diary

  • Clothes belonging to Martha Washington     

  • An eyewitness account of the attack on Pearl Harbor                                  

(Library Media Connection   March 2003)                                                                                                                           


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