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Snap Language

Getting Smarter through Language

5 Rhetorical Modes of Writing
Narrative Mode

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In narrative writing, you tell a story to present information to the readers as a sequence of events.

Narrative writing involves elements of storytelling such as characters, a plot, setting, conflict and resolution, and contains a message or “the moral of the story.”


Whereas you should avoid the first person point of view in formal or academic writing (i.e., using first person pronouns such as I, we, me, us), using first person pronouns in narrative writing actually brings the writer closer to the story and the topic.

Narrative mode of writing

Impact on readers. Narrative writing helps readers create a mental picture or image of the topic.

The reader understands that the information is not necessarily objective as it is being communicated from the writer’s perspective or viewpoint. Nonetheless, the narrative mode of writing helps readers understand the writer’s point, especially when a compelling narrative draws the readers into the topic.

Tone. In storytelling, writers have a great deal of flexibility to the tone that is most appropriate to the message (e.g., serious, joyous, mournful, passionate, and so on).

Type of materials. Narrative writing is typically found in literary works such as novels, poems, anecdotes, and short stories though you can use it in any writing if it suits your needs.

Example narrative writing

In the passage below, editors tell the story of how the entrance to King Tut’s tomb was discovered.

British archaeologist Howard Carter and his workmen discover a step leading to the tomb of King Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt on November 4, 1922.

When Carter first arrived in Egypt in 1891, most of the ancient Egyptian tombs had been discovered, though the little-known King Tutankhamen, who had died when he was 18, was still unaccounted for. After World War I, Carter began an intensive search for “King Tut’s Tomb,” finally finding steps to the burial room hidden in the debris near the entrance of the nearby tomb of King Ramses VI in the Valley of the Kings. On November 26, 1922, Carter and fellow archaeologist Lord Carnarvon entered the interior chambers of the tomb, finding them miraculously intact.

Thus began a monumental excavation process in which Carter carefully explored the four-room tomb over several years, uncovering an incredible collection of several thousand objects. The most splendid architectural find was a stone sarcophagus containing three coffins nested within each other. Inside the final coffin, which was made out of solid gold, was the mummy of the boy-king Tutankhamen, preserved for more than 3,000 years. Most of these treasures are now housed in the Cairo Museum.

Source: "Entrance to King Tut’s tomb discovered.",,

Writing tip

Whether you choose to write in expository mode or to tell a story to your readers, be careful about the tone you use. For example, you may decide to use a sad, deeply emotional tone to appeal to your readers’ emotions in an attempt to make your point. That can be a big mistake.

Think of your readers are smart people capable of detecting manipulation. Once your readers detect a dishonest use of tone, they are likely to lose respect for you so, essentially, your tactic will backfire.

Related Lesson

Related lesson: Should you avoid using the first person in academic writing? Learn why and how to avoid the first person in academic writing. (Link opens in a new tab.)

Up Next: Descriptive Mode

Continue the course to learn about the descriptive mode of writing.