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Writing story poems, 5 things to keep in mind

Updated on March 21, 2016

Story telling with a poem

My interest in narrative poetry started early as a young boy after reading a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. I can still to this day remember the vivid images that played in my mind like a moving picture show after reading "The Raven".

In the time span between drawing pictures on a cave wall and printed books man told stories. And for the stories to be remembered and retold over and over again man, used rhythm, rhyme and repetition. It was during this span of time that the narrative or story poem was born.

The great thing about modern narrative poetry or story, poetry is that there are really no rules just so long as you tell a story. They can be long or short, rhyme or free verse. Each story that you choose to tell should have 4 basic elements. At least one main character, a beginning, a middle and an end.

So now you have decided to write your own narrative poem or story poem and there really are no rules, but If you follow these 5 simple guidelines your poem should be a success.

1. Topic

Of course your narrative poem or story poem has to be about something. Your topic should have great meaning to you so you can write about it with feelings and insight from your heart. Remember, it does not have to be you telling the story. The main character can be anyone, even fictional. Some topics I have used in the past are love, lost love, death, memories, ghosts, dreams, epic battles, family members, and pets. Your topics list is endless, just keep in mind that the topic has to have meaning to you so the reader can experience the feelings and emotions that you did.

"Ghost Train"

Your topic can be anything. In this poem my topic was the unusual choice of a train.

"Ghost Train"

In the distance blinding light appeared

Bone chilling, silent, and to be feared

Stroke of 12, out of the dark night it came

Railroad tracks and metal wheels aflame

Engine of steam bellowing misty white smoke

Ghost train, Hell on Wheels going for broke

Blowing white steam, sparks of fire close to me

Death the conductor, waving a skeleton key

Black railroad cars packed full of pasty face folks

No smiles, just tears, no happiness for these blokes

Specter of Death, looked at me with a ghastly smile

Skull with hollow sockets gazed at me for half a mile

How and where it came from, I will never be able to tell

All I know, Ghost train passengers going straight to Hell

By Kurt Reifschneider

2. Pack it full of emotion

Your tone and your words need to express the emotion you are feeling while you are writing your story poem. I cannot tell you how many times I got choked up and started to cry while I was writing. If the emotions are real it should come across in your writing. I am not saying it should be sad but it should have one of the these eight emotions packed into it

1. Fear

2. Anger

3. Sadness

4. Joy

5. Disgust

6. Trust

7. Anticipation

8. Surprise

"I Forgive You"

In this poem that I wrote the emotion is still strong for me years later. It stills brings a tear to my eye.

"I Forgive you"

Looking back sometimes is hard to do,

Hair is gray, difficult, but now I forgive you

Hatred has finally disappeared, faded away

Fifty plus years later I think I am okay

Dad when you drank, demons you tried to slay

It never worked, they never stayed away

With words and fist you made our life hell

Vodka was your demon, you were under its spell

Nothing ever good came from abusing the drink

Had you, took over you so you could not think

Your life ended, spring of nineteen eighty one

No apologies for the things that you had done

The years have flown by, now I ask for none

Within myself, I forgive you, from your youngest son

Poem by Kurt Reifschneider

3. Don’t waste words

Remember, you are not writing a novel and no need to have any type of buildup. Think of it as your readers sitting around a campfire at night telling stories.

"Our Last Night"

In this poem I jumped right into the story. No build up or background was needed.

"Our Last Night"

Looking back, I remember our last night

Stars above had never been so bright

My memory of the kiss we shared

Nothing I ever felt could ever compare

You in my arms I had everything

That night you were my Queen, and I your King

Our last night the world was ours to take

How could I have known the agony, the ache

I did not know the way it would end

Memories are still hard for me to comprehend

Our lives had been left to fate, to chance

On the night of our last starlight dance

The accident, death took you away

So many things I didn’t get to say

I learned to cherish the moments that are small

Never know when they will be gone and lose them all

By Kurt Reifschneider

4. Details

Details, details and more details. Your narrative or story poem needs to draw a picture for your reader and color it with words. Use all of the five senses of looks, sounds, smells, taste and feels when telling your story for the reader. And don't forget the adjectives. "It flowed over me the like the wave of an ocean, the grief." Sounds better than "I was grieving" or "As time marched on, I was wrong and let it fade away" sounds better than "I was wrong". Use descriptive words in describing your details.

"Woman In Black"

In this poem some examples of the descriptive details are "Quarter size snowflakes", ""glistening black fur hat", "only snowflakes swayed",

"Woman in Black"

Walking bundle up against the night, cold and snow

Quarter size snowflakes floated in the streetlights glow

She appeared dressed in black, with button up shoes

Across the street behind falling snow looking confused

Looking the part of a rustic mountain mining town

Woman out of time in modern Central City downtown

Pacing the street up and down, this way and that

Panic look I could see below her glistening black fur hat

Slowly crossing the street in the wet slush and snow

Now next to her, noticing her face eerie pale glow

Sadness was upon her face as she looked at me

Snow gets thicker, she was harder for me to see

With mournful look reaching for me she began to fade

In the darkness before me only snowflakes swayed

Confused staring in the dark and the snow on the ground

My footprints only, hers were nowhere to be found

Slowly I walked, turning my collar to the cold and damp

I knew I had seen her ghost in this old mining camp

By Kurt Reifschneider

5. Use key words

Repeat key words and phrases throughout the poem to help keep the emotion that you are trying to describe right in front of the reader.

“You Make Me Feel”

In this poem I wrote "You Make Me Feel" which is the repeated phrase that I used to express the emotion that I was feeling at the time I wrote the poem.

"You Make Me Feel"

You made me feel yesterday with one stolen kiss

Of all things that were forgotten and I have missed

You make me feel when you come into sight

That I want for a lifetime to hold you tight

You make me feel like a teen once more

With youthful wanting of what is in store

You make me feel that there is a distant light

That true love is maybe not out of sight

You make me believe the love songs that are sung

Are not just for others and those that are young

You make me feel the passion, and so much more

So many feelings and thoughts I cannot ignore

Poem by Kurt Reifschneider

Now you can write a story poem.

The key here is to write about what you know and your feelings that are associated with that. I hope this article gave you some food for thought. Now go write a narrative poem.


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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks Kurt, hope you get to realise you wish to visit these fair shores, and yes the guest room is always available. Cheers.

    • kurtreifschneider profile imageAUTHOR

      Kurt James 

      3 years ago from Loveland Colorado

      Jodah nice to hear from a fellow poet. I was wondering how my Hub would be received from another narrative poet such as yourself. I have tell you that visiting Australia is number 1 in my bucket list so keep the guest room

    • kurtreifschneider profile imageAUTHOR

      Kurt James 

      3 years ago from Loveland Colorado

      Always nice to hear a compliment from an artist such as yourself Jason.

    • profile image

      Jason Ridenour 

      3 years ago

      Wonderful article! Very artistic, and insightful.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      What a great hub Kurt. Writing poetry is my passion and many are narrative/story poems. Your instructions are spot on and your own poetry gives wonderful examples. Voted up and shared.


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