If people are constantly telling you to write a book about your life, but you just don’t have the time or resources to do so, what are the other alternatives? How about trying narrative poetry? The ancients have been using this method to tell tales of fables, myth and adventures for centuries. Most famous are Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, and the epic story of Beowulf. Narrative poetry has no set form to it. No rhythm or rhyme is needed to write one, so there is room to play. You just need to have a main character, and a beginning, middle and end to the story.
Instead of narrating your entire life in a novel, you could pick portions of you endeavors and create a collection of narrative poems instead. CTU’s next anthology (Imperfect Paths) wants to publish your journeys, and a few narrative poems are the perfect way to tell those tales.
Here are a few helpful hints when writing narrative poetry:
Pick a topic and character
We have all had to endure many obstacles in our life or have seen someone else jump over many hurdles. Talk about coming from a broken home, going on a spiritual journey to find yourself, or a business idea that didn’t work out. Do you know a grandparent who has lived through war, a child who has seen the inside and out of the foster system, or a how that person on the side of the street became homeless. There are so many stories to tell about people and their imperfect paths.
Using emotions and descriptions
Write the details. Narrate the emotions each character feels in a way that the audience feels them too. Give every transition of feelings in the poem. And set the scene. You don’t have to get too specific, but make sure you create an atmosphere to parallel the emotions. Was there an epiphany on a mountainside or perhaps an escape from the slums of a city? Put the reader in that place.
Break the barriers
You don’t always have to lead with the beginning of a story. And you don’t have to give every little detail. Start at a crucial point to make the story more intense. Skip a few details to leave the audience guessing. Think the way a script is written vs a novel. Producers and directors often omit little details from the written form to make the movie a more visual tale.
Keep the audience in mind.
A narrative poem can be extremely lengthy. For a contest, you may only get to submit 1-2 pages per poem. Read your poem over and over, and edit as you go. You may find details not necessarily needed. Play with your words and shorten sentences if you have to. You want to make sure your poem captures the reader’s attention in the first few lines or by using a catchy title. You can get as creative as you want with a narrative poem, so use it to your advantage.
Poet Maya Angelou had many stories to tell from the era she lived. Some of her narrative poems are about her struggles not only as a woman, but a woman of color. They didn’t have to be numerous pages, as she could depict her message in short and sweet lines as she did with “Phenomenal Woman.”
*Enter your narrative submissions for CTU’s next anthology by clicking on the link below*
Written by: Donna J. Sanders
Donna is a freelance writer and blogger in West Palm Beach, FL. She is the author of Ataraxia, Cardboard Signs, and Devour Me.
Find out more about her here:
Sign up for our emails on writing tips at:
Photo Credit: © Donna J. Sanders
Categories: Writing Tips