Fascinating Facts

 

Mixing Narration and Exposition

Let's start this lesson by making sure you know these literary terms:

narration

the telling of a story

exposition

the explanation of background information

In your letter to a friend, you'll be mixing these two different "modes of discourse". In other words, you're telling a story, and at the same time, you're explaining things about the country that you're visiting.

That's not too tricky, is it? Maybe not. Nonetheless, it may be helpful to analyze how advanced writers pull this off.

Mixing Narration and Exposition

Typically, here is how it's done:

  1. The writer is telling a story.
  2. The writer refers to something the reader may not know.
  3. The writer explains it. (That's called the exposition).
  4. The writer continues with the story.

Here is an example:

I arrived in Algeria yesterday, and today I spent the day exploring the capital city, Algiers. I ate lunch near the market—(a delicious lunch of roasted lamb, seasoned with cardamom)—and then I walked around the main plaza. In the middle of the plaza is a statue of Hassiba Boulmerka.

Hassiba Boulmerka is a famous track and field athlete. She was the first African woman to win an Olympic gold medal. She ran 1,500 meters in less than 54 seconds! Despite this amazing accomplishment, some people spat on her because they felt that she had disrespected God by running with bare legs.

After taking pictures of the statue, I returned to the hotel. I had made reservations at a fancy restaurant for 6:00, so I barely had time to shower and dress for dinner. But you won't believe what happened next! As I was walking to the restaurant . . .

Do you see what I did there? I told you a story, and smack in the middle, I jammed in a paragraph of exposition—a paragraph that explains who Hassiba Boulmerka is.

In truth, my writing process went something like this:

    1. I started by reading the chapter on Algeria.
    2. In the text there is a paragraph about Hassiba Boulmerka. I found it fairly interesting.
    3. So I asked myself: How can I include this information about Boulmerka in my letter?
    4. I came up with an idea: Perhaps I could see a statue of her—and that would give me a great excuse to throw in some exposition.

As for that middle paragraph—the paragraph of exposition—I put that information into my own words, and that's why you don't see any quotation marks in that paragraph. If I had wanted to, I could have quoted my "guidebook", Fascinating Facts, like this:

I arrived in Algeria yesterday, and today I spent the day exploring the capital city, Algiers. I ate lunch near the market—a delicious lunch of roasted lamb, seasoned with cardamom—and then I walked around the main plaza. In the middle of the plaza is a statue of Hassiba Boulmerka.

Hassiba Boulmerka is a famous track and field athlete. According to my guidebook, "Hassiba Boulmerka became the first African woman to win a gold medal at the World Track and Field Championships in 1991 when she won the 1,500 meters." Sadly, some people have spat on her because they feel that she disrespected to God for running with bare legs.

After taking some pictures of the statue, I returned to the hotel. I had made reservations at a fancy restaurant for 6:00, so I barely had time to shower and dress for dinner. But you won't believe what happened next! As I was walking to the restaurant . . .

The highlighted sentences include two sentences that I "lifted" or "stole" directly from the text, Fascinating Facts. As you know, I'm allowed to do this because:

    1. I put quotation marks around those two sentences.
    2. I introduced those sentences with a signal phrase. (In this case, I used the signal phrase "According to my guidebook," as discussed in the previous lesson.

Here is what I'm hoping you'll take away from this lesson:

While reading the text, identify some "fascinating fact" that you'd like to work into your letter.

Now ask yourself: What experience might I have in this foreign country that might prompt me to write about it to my friend?

Then tell the story, and smack in the middle, throw in some exposition.

By the way, that's exactly what I did several lessons ago, when I told you how camels can block their nostrils in order to keep out sand. After reading that fact, I asked myself: How can I work this tidbit into a story? I know! I'll tell a story about a camel trek and getting caught in a sandstorm!

With a little practice, you too will be able to easily blend narration with exposition.

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the Questions.

Quiz