Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Speakout Advanced p 58. A Narrative.

 Useful Language 

He was in luck.
in luck: fortunate; lucky. E.g. You want a red one? You're in luck. There is one red one left. I had an accident, but I was in luck. It was not serious.

She was in shock.

He was out of luck.
out of luck: without good luck; having bad fortune. E.g. if you wanted some ice cream, you're out of luck. I was out of luck. I got there too late to get a seat.

It was a real shock.

She couldn't believe her eyes/ears/luck.
couldn't believe your eyes: if you say that you couldn't believe your eyes when you saw something, you mean that you were very surprised by it. E.g. She couldn't believe her eyes when she saw him drive up in his new car. I could hardly believe my eyes. They'd made so many changes, it looked like a completely different house.

It was too good to be true.

It was a sight for sore eyes.
a sight for sore eyes: a person or thing that you are pleased to see; something that is very pleasant to look at.

It was the best/worst experience ever. 

He was left speechless.

It made her jump.

Her heart was beating furiously.

He was taken by surprise
take somebody by surprise: to happen unexpectedly so that somebody is slightly shocked; to surprise somebody. E.g. His frankness took her by surprise.

To my surprise/astonishment/ delight/ relief/ dismay, ...

He watched in complete bemusement (confusion, surprise, bewilderment)

He breathed a sigh of relief.

He was out of breath.

It was getting on her nerves.

She burst out laughing/ into tears.

There was no hope left.

The next thing I knew
The next thing I knew: used to talk about part of a story that happens in a sudden and surprising way. E.g. A car came speeding around the corner, and the next thing I knew I was lying on the ground.

All of a sudden,...

Just then, ...

It was at that moment that...

Just as he was leaving,...

From that time onwards...

From then on...

No long after that...

Soon afterwards...

During the next ten years...

During this period...

Around this time...

In the heat of the moment,...
In the heat of the moment: if you say or do something in the heat of the moment, you say or do it without thinking because you are angry or excited. E.g. Frank doesn't hate you. He just said that in the heat of the moment.
Without thinking,...

Within minutes,... 

In retrospect,...

hindsight /ˈhaɪndsaɪt/
the understanding that you have of a situation only after it has happened and that means you would have done things in a different way. With hindsight it is easy to say they should not have released him. What looks obvious in hindsight was not at all obvious at the time. It's easy to criticize with the benefit of hindsight.

Looking back, ...

Meeting her marked a major turning point for him. 
turning point (in something) the time when an important change takes place, usually with the result that a situation improves. E.g. The promotion marked a turning point in her career. 

It was the highlight of her schooldays.

To cut a long story short... 
To make matters worse...

If this were not enough...

On top of all that...

Imagine her embarrassment when...


At this point...

The moral of the story is...


Stories are expected to have a clear beginning, middle and end (not necessarily in that order!, although it's easier to write a story in chronological order). Something must happen in your story, but take a short time span and don’t have lots of dramatic events happening in a short story. Tension and suspense can be created by leaving some questions unanswered in the reader’s mind and then gradually revealing the truth. A sense of unity and closure is important. Avoid a predictable ending.


Clearly describing your setting allows the reader to imagine being in that place, allows them to mentally look around and see what the characters see. It also helps to create a specific mood and atmosphere.


Readers get to know a character’s personality through what they say (1), what they do, how they react (2), how they look and from other people’s opinions and attitudes towards this character. These details need to be revealed gradually and to be worked naturally into the act of telling the story. You can also reveal their thoughts and feelings, which gives the reader a greater insight into the character’s true self. Only have one or two main characters to avoid confusion. Your reader needs to relate to the character on some level (to feel sympathy, fascination or amusement) and needs to feel curious to find out more about them; and finally the reader must believe in the character – must understand what motivates them and feel that their actions, statements and thought processes are convincing and true to life.


A narrative can be written either in the past tense or the present tense. Using the present creates a dramatic immediacy for the reader. The important thing is to pick a tense and stick with it.


Vivid imagery literally means that the words create a clear picture in your mind. A writer can achieve so by using:


Action words, which show what is exactly happening, what someone is doing add energy and excitement to a sentence. Eg “Suzie bounces over, screaming with excitement“ is much more effective than “Suzie walks over and says she’s really excited“.


Words which describe the noun: eg. “a heavy low grey cloud loomed on the distant horizon”.


Words which describe the verb: eg. “the cloud loomed menacingly, then burst suddenly. Freezing raindrops immediately soaked through my flimsy nightdress.”


Really good descriptive writing doesn’t just describe SIGHTS, but also SOUNDS, SMELLS and less often TASTE and TOUCH. This gives the reader a fuller experience in their imagination, because in real life we experience the world through all five senses. Eg “The church bells chimed loudly to remind us that life would continue on as normal, but the foul taste of smoke in my mouth and the rancid smell of burning flesh suggested otherwise. I winced as the nurse wound a bandage around my mangled leg, the open wound throbbing at her gentle touch”.


Order and give sense to the sequence of events with time phrases:

At first, ... / to start with,.../ In the beginning,...

Then / next

The next thing he knew was that...

Some time later,... / Later on,... / It wasn't until much later that...

Seconds later... Minutes later...

In the end,...

At last,...


Meanwhile / In the meantime,

While all this was going on,

In the middle of all this, ...

During all this time, ...


Suddenly / All of a sudden, ...

All at once, ...

Out of the blue, ...

Without any warning, ...

Just when I was least expecting it, ...

The next thing I knew was ...


As quick as a flash, ...

In the wink of an eye, ...

In a matter of seconds / minutes, ...

In no time at all, ...

LOOKING BACK (useful phrases for leading into flashbacks)

In retrospect, ...

When I think back to what happened then, ...

Looking back, he could scarcely believe all that had happened.

If only he hadn't chosen (that day / person / holiday...) to...

To think that (the day / trip...) had all started so normally.

Later, on the way home, she went over everything that had happened in her mind.

She let her mind drift back to how all it had began.

After drafting a narrative, spend some time away from it. Then try reading it out loud. This helps to highlight any missing or repeated words or missing punctuation.

Ask yourself: can I add any more detail to improve it? Are there any details that need to be removed.

(1) Short sections of dialogue, used at the most dramatic points, can make your text and characters come alive. The actual words that people say should always be enclosed in quotation marks because they distract form the main story.

(2) Use idioms to describe personal reactions. For example:


I froze in horror.

I felt my blood run cold.

Shivers ran down my spine.

I was absolutely petrified.

I could feel my heart thumping in my chest.

She felt the sweat running down her forehead.

She was in shock.


I nearly died of embarrassment.

I blushed to the roots.

I was completely tongue-tied.

Imagine her embarrassment when...


I was absolutely livid (furious)

I was so angry I couldn't speak.

I hit the roof.

I was beside myself with rage.

I could feel my blood boil.

I could put up with it no longer.

I lost my temper.

It was getting on her nerves.


I felt a thrill of excitement.

I was speechless.

My heart was in my mouth.

The suspense was unbearable.

She couldn't believe her eyes / ears / luck.

It was too good to be true.

He was left speechless.

To my surprise / astonishment/ delight / relief / dismay, ...

He watched in complete bemusement (confusion, surprise, bewilderment)


My heart sank.

I felt absolutely helpless.

It was the worst day of my life.

Things couldn't have been worse.

I though it was the end of the world. / I felt my world had ended.

She burst into tears.

She choked back her tears.

choke back: to stop yourself from showing a feeling or emotion. E.g. choke back tears: Ms Ross choked back tears as she described what had happened.

A feeling of sadness came over him.

I felt a pang of disappointment.

pang: a sudden strong feeling of physical or emotional pain. E.g. hunger pangs/pangs of hunger. A sudden pang of jealousy. She looked at Susan and saw with a pang how tired and frail she seemed.

The situation seemed hopeless.

There was nothing left to say / to do.

It was all in vain.

There was no hope left.


She was over the moon.

Her eyes shone with pleasure.

I was happy as the day is long.

I was on cloud nine!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.