WRITING MODES in fictional and non-fictional works
Writing modes refer to the methods by which written work is developed or the ways the author conveys the information to readers. The most frequently used writing modes correspond to the classical rhetorical modes, or “modes of discourse“.
The modes of discourse describe categories, conventions and purposes of language-based communication, – writing and speaking. They are the following:
The previous writing modes are employed in both fictional (literary) and non-fictional works. They were also emphasised in chapter’s section Types of TEXTS, where a general classification of written texts, based on the criteria of purpose and meaning, was made.
A narration tells a story. Narrations comprise of characteristic elements through which the author presents the story: the general perspective (personal or impersonal), the rendering “voice” (which “tells” the story), the time perspective (present, past, future, etc.). Any narration includes a personal character or a non-personal voice, the narrator, is what author uses to convey the story to the readers.
A narration can be identified by the presence of characters, sequences of actions informally or chronologically connected.
A description is a writing style consisting of a presentation (in words) of objects, experiences, situations, characters, etc. A description is the typical way to communicate secondary ideas, by focusing on all kinds of detail, mostly sensorial: colour, texture, size, material, scent, relative position, etc.
A description can be identified by the frequent use of nouns and adjectives and the relatively few action verbs.
A exposition usually communicates information. The purpose of exposition is to explain and analyse ideas, facts, actions and situations. That’s why exposition is frequently used at the beginning of a story to provide the background information to readers.
Exposition is also used in transitions, to aid readers to understand new scenes or contexts in the written work.
Argumentation is a writing style where the author tries to prove the validity of an idea, theory or point of view. Argumentation is also called the persuasive style, because its purpose is to attempt to change the reader’s opinion or point of view.
As mentioned in section Types of TEXTS, few writings use only one style of discourse. One can find in a narrative piece of text expository or descriptive fragments. Other commonly used writing styles are dialogues and monologues.
A dialogue is the narrative style consisting of a transcript of a conversation between two or more characters. Dialogues bring dynamism in a story, create the impression of authenticity, and serve as indirect means of description.
A dialogue can be identified by the use of use of certain verbs i.e.say, state, ask, request, etc. followed by the actual transcript of the words of the characters.
A monologue is a narrative style consisting of the transcript of the inner ideas or feelings of a character. The monologue can be identified by the uninterrupted speech of a character and the absence of verbal responses.
SUBJECT and DRAMATIC STRUCTURE
If you want to summarise a fictional or literary work, make sure you do not confuse the theme of the work with its subject. Subject is a topic which acts as a foundation for a literary writing while a theme is an opinion expressed on the subject.
For example, a writer may choose a subject of war for his story and the theme of a story may be writer’s personal opinion that war is a curse for humanity. The subject of a literary work is the totality of the events, developed in space and time, as reflected in the literary text.
The subject is usually organised as a sequence of “moments” or “points”, which define the dramatic structure of the literary text:
- exposition –the part of the story that defines the initial background.
- plot (intrigue) – the point when a conflict is created and triggers a sequence of causally interconnected events.
- development of the action – the sequence of events triggered by the plot.
- climax – the moment or point of highest dramatic intensity, usually a turning point in the evolution of the events.
- resolution – the point that reveals the resolution of the conflict.
Some modern literary works do not follow exactly the above listed dramatic structure: the moments cannot be clearly delimited, or in the order presented.
The following signs can help you to identify the dramatic structure of a text.
The Exposition usually contains the space and time indicators of the action; it is a moment without dramatic intensity, it often contains descriptive elements.
The Plot (intrigue) is a tense moment, usually short, that triggers the conflict.
The development of the action is the longest part of the work; and it describes the actual sequence of events, and plot twists, more or less emotionally tense.
The climax is the moment of maximum intensity of the conflict, when it seems to be no solution for the crisis; the plot is often short from a temporal perspective.
Resolution reflects the new equilibrium established after the conflict has been resolved.
A well-known children’ story, where the dramatic structure is highlighted in colours
Exposition Plot Development of the action Climax Resolution
The three little pigs’ story
Once upon a time there were three little pigs. One pig built a house of straw while the second pig built his house with sticks. They built their houses very quickly and then sang and danced all day because they were lazy. The third little pig worked hard all day and built his house of bricks.
A big bad wolf saw the two little pigs while they danced and played and thought, “What juicy tender meals they will make!” He chased the two pigs and they ran and hid in their houses.
The big bad wolf went to the first house and huffed and puffed and blew the house down in minutes. The frightened little pig ran to the second pig’s house that was made of sticks. The big bad wolf now came to this house and huffed and puffed and blew the house down in hardly any time. Now, the two little pigs were terrified and ran to the third pig’s house that was made of bricks.
The big bad wolf tried to huff and puff and blow the house down, but he could not. He kept trying for hours but the house was very strong and the little pigs were safe inside. He tried to enter through the chimney but the third little pig boiled a big pot of water and kept it below the chimney. The wolf fell into it and died.
The two little pigs now felt sorry for having been so lazy. They too built their houses with bricks and lived happily ever after.
Development of the action
CHARACTERS of a literary work
A literary character has a fictional identity distinct from any real character, even if it is modelled in the real world. Literary characters are classified as:
- main characters (protagonists), secondary, episodic (degree of importance).
- individual, collective (degree of individualisation).
- static (who doesn’t change) or round (complex, nuanced) characters.
Writers use various techniques to depict characters in their literary works:
- – directly: through the narrator voice, through the voice of other characters, or by self-characterisation.
- – indirectly: through characters actions, attitudes or language.
Relationship with other characters, the environment where they live in, clothing and other indirect techniques to describe a character in literary work.
If you want to extract the description of a literary character for your summarisation work, it is recommended to go through several steps:
Read the text carefully
Determine the status of the character with respect to:
- the degree of participation in the action (protagonist, secondary, episodic).
- the degree of individualisation (individual, collective).
- the degree of characterisim for a certain human behavior or trait.
Define the main traits of the character consider and then illustrate the traits identified, by means of citations or by indicating meaningful events or situations.
Select meaningful passages to illustrate the physical or psychological traits of the character and the techniques of characterisation used.
Illustrate through examples the techniques of characterisations identified.
Present the relationship between the considered character and other characters.
Finally, refer to the literary means and methods of characterisation that build the portrait of the character.
The NARRATOR in a literary work
The narrator is “a voice” in the text and should not be confused with the author.
The narrator is a human story teller and can be:
- subjective – emotionally involved in the story.
- objective – emotionally uninvolved, detached.
- omniscient – knowing how and what the characters think, the reasons for they act.
- narrator-character – a character participating to its own narration.
- “the voice” – a story teller that cannot be identified with a specific character.
To identify the status of the narrator, check the person of the verb and pronoun. If the narration uses the first person, then the narrator is also a character in the story. If the narration uses the third person, the narrator is not a character, but just an impersonal voice.
Some particular clues can indicate the emotional involvement of the narrator: the use of the first person singular, together with comments, verbs in the imperative, expressive punctuation, show that the narrator is subjective.
TIME and SPACE indicators
The indicators of time are clues that define the sequence of the actions in a text. In order to identify the time indicators, one should look for adverbs of time, nouns that designate certain moments of the day or week, as well as months, seasons, years, historical landmarks, numerals indication the time of the day, etc.
The space indicators specify or suggest where the actions take place. The space indicators are commonly encoded in words that indicate the place of the action: adverbs of place, nouns, geographical references or landmarks.
The place may be:
- outdoors: in nature, in the forest, a lake, or a park etc.
- indoors: a room, a building, a home.
- real: a village, a city, a country, etc.
- imaginary / fantastic: the realm of the fairies, the realm beyond.
- earthly: the garden, the street.
- cosmic: the sky, the moon, the galaxy.
The indicators of time and space help you to better understand the action and the facts of writing, fictional or non-fictional. If time and space are important elements of the subject or the ideas in the text you want to summarise, then you must specify them.
EXAMPLE of a summary – the plot and the protagonist of a play
The descriptive summary of one of the absolute masterpieces of humanity: King Lear by William Shakespeare. The summary below was developed from the Wikipedia wonderful presentation.
No fear Shakespeare!
A summary of William Shakespeare’s play “King Lear”
The play. King Lear is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare, one of his greatest works. The play depicts “the tragic consequences and the gradual descent into madness of the title character, after giving his kingdom to his two oldest daughters, based on their flattery of him”. The tragedy is masterpiece of probing observations on the nature of human suffering and kinship.
The plot. Lear, the king of Britain, decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters. The largest portion of the kingdom will go to the daughter who best expresses her love to him. Goneril and Regan, the older daughters, offer their father flattering words. Only Cordelia, Lear’s youngest and favorite daughter, give him a simple, honest speech. King Lear is deceived by her answer and banishes Cordelia.
The oldest daughters inherit Britain, Lear’s kingdom. But Lear quickly learns he made a terrible decision: Goneril and Regan humiliate and treat him cruelly, and conspire to kill him. Betrayed by his daughters Lear run off their houses, accompanied only by his mocking Fool and two loyal nobles. The noble man who warned Lear of his daughters plots is brutally punished with blindness. Lear slowly descent into complete madness. Married with the French king, Cordelia came with an army to help his father. The French are defeated but Lear, Cordelia, Goneril and Regan die. Lear’s loyal noble men will take care of the kingdom, under a great shadow of sorrow.
The protagonist. King Lear, the central character of the tragedy is one of Shakespeare’s most complex characters. Lear is revealed as being naive and kind, passionate and cruel, unpleasant and sympathetic. His absurd eagerness to believe empty flatteries leads to the death of himself and many people. But Lear is one character whose punishment far exceeds his foolish errors. Throughout the play, the audience is permitted to see how Lear learns from his mistakes and becomes a better human being, and humble, caring individual.