The narrative structure is the story’s content and the form used to tell the story.
This feature of a creative text generally describes the order and manner in which a narrative is presented to a reader, listener, or viewer. The frameworks of a narrative text structure are the plot and the setting.
This can also depend on the genre and medium of a story. For example, a ‘whodunnit’ will typically have an orientation (beginning) that sets up the crime, the victim, and the protagonist involved in solving it. Then, in the middle part of the story, we follow the main character as they weigh up who might have committed the crime and how. The criminal is usually revealed at the conclusion, and the reader finds out how it was done.
As for a medium, plays and films are good examples, as they traditionally employ a three-act structure that helps to build tension and suspense across a narrative.
Why is Narrative Structure Important?
Narratives tell stories, and stories help us connect. They are written to entertain and to share experiences with a reader. Narratives can be written in many mediums, such as novels, short stories, poems, diaries, and even biographies.
The narrative structure is an essential tool in a writer’s arsenal, as it allows them to grab the audience’s attention and keep them engaged. However, the way a story is told can make it dull, ordinary, or engaging, depending on the approach.
What is the structure of a narrative?
Here are some of the main parts of a narrative. It’s important to note that the writer’s plot, style, and personality will subtly change this structure, but these are some main parts to think about when reading and writing stories.
- This gives the reader an idea of what the text will be about.
- The main character and sometimes other characters are introduced.
- The setting, place, and time are introduced.
- A problem, complication, or dilemma is put onto the main character, which they must find a way to overcome.
- This prompts the characters to face more events to solve the original problem.
Series of Events
- Paragraphs explain and tell the story by exploring a series of events.
- The feelings of the main character (and other characters) about the problem and other events are shown throughout this section.
- The problem, complication, or dilemma is sorted out, and the emotional stress is resolved.
- The series of events is brought to a close.
This part of the text is optional.
- If there is a moral or a lesson to be learned from the text, it is written at the end.
- We might also find out what happened to other characters in the story.
What are some structural devices in English?
Structural devices in English are literary devices related to the structure of a text. These devices influence how a text is structured and laid out. Here are some standard structural devices in English:
- A story arc: a story arc has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There is usually a crisis point within the story that is resolved at the end.
- Dual narrative: a dual narrative gives two sides to a story and alternates between viewpoints throughout the story.
- Circular narrative: in a circular narrative, the end of a piece of writing takes you right back to the beginning of it.
- Flashback: this is where the main narrative takes place at one time, but there are flash-backs and episodes from the past.
What are some famous examples of narrative structure?
There’s not a ‘one style fits all’ approach when it comes to narrative structure. The construction of a story will naturally differ depending on the story being told and the medium in which it is being said. For example, you would not expect the same structure in a short story as in a film, as these two mediums have different expectations and audience experiences to work with. Nevertheless, some common narrative structures might inspire your lessons on this topic.
- The Hero’s Journey. This kind of narrative used to be the bee’s knees back in Homer’s day. When Homer wrote The Odyssey around 1614, epic poems were the height of fiction, so their structure was considered the benchmark. ‘The Hero’s Journey’ uses an eight-part cyclical system, which starts with a call to adventure, an eventual passing of the threshold (or the halfway point), and a return home. By the end, the hero is back in the position they started in, having learned something along the way.
- A Five-Part Structure. This standard structure includes an orientation, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. If that sounds familiar, these are all alternative terms to the structure we used above!
- Fractured Narrative. This more complex narrative features jumping back in time or quick movements between different perspectives. If it sounds confusing, it’s because it often is! These kinds of records can allow the writer to use confusion to their advantage, making the reader feel the same emotions as the characters in the story. It’s also used frequently in science fiction narratives that feature time traveling.