past tense verbs (mostly simple past but past perfect, past progressive, and sometimes would/could for past time meanings)
adverbs with past time reference
chronological order (signaled by those adverbials)
proper nouns (for the names of people and places)
personal pronouns (to refer to those people and places)
In addition, research on narrative structure (see Bardovi-Harlig's work) points out the two major divisions that make up a narrative: (1) a story has a "foreground" that is the basic story and generally uses simple past tense verbs and is in chronological order; but a story also has (2) background which includes all the information that the storyteller thinks you need to have to understand the story--for example, generalizations, descriptions and previous events that influence the events in the story. The background tends to be more grammatically complex than the foreground with a greater variety of verb types--present tense for generalizations that are still true in the present, past perfect for events that happened prior to the time of the story, and others.
The background tends to be harder for our students to write than the foreground. For one thing, the grammar is more complicated. Just as importantly, knowing what your reader doesn't know is a very difficult task for a writer. We all struggle with that puzzle constantly in our writing.
Please look at the following collection of narratives. I selected them to show you a number of things about storytelling:
1. Stories are told for many purposes. Sometimes they are told to be stories--in novels and other literary forms. Or in the tradition of oral storytelling. Many times they are given to illustrate principles and to provide examples. Notice how…