Narrative Structure

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The purpose of a narrative text is to keep the readers amused or present a story. For example, a fairy tale is a narrative text structure. Narrative text structures should be easy to remember since the structure follows a story with a beginning, middle, and an end.

All short stories, regardless of individual structure, include characterization, conflict and final answer, but precisely how the writer decides to bring together each event of the story and elements and later reveal them to the reader is called the story's narrative structure.

Elements of Narrative Structure –
A narrative structure begins the plot, introduces the characters & setting, and may include key conflict or complication. The part of the story where the conflict(s) & complication(s) develop, which causes tension, suspense and interest to build.

Elements of Narrative Structure
  • Plot 
  • Exposition
  • Rising action
  • Climax
  • Falling action
  • Resolution
  • Setting
  • Characters
  • Conflict
  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Foreshadowing
  • Autobiography
  • Figurative language
  • Audience
  • Tone



Kinds of Narrative Structure

Throughout literary history, authors have introduced, altered and created many different kinds of narrative structures. The short story reveals many sub-genres and patterns of narrative structures; some are innovative and fresh, while others are familiar and comfortable. 

The Different Kinds of Narrative Structure in Short Stories
  • Linear Narration – Linear stories are the most familiar narrative structures. A linear short story is written in sequential order with very little or no variation. Most linear short stories do not include memories or dreams, but describe the story as it is happening. The focus remains in the present, rather than the past or the future. The story is measured around one grave moment of decision and that moment shapes the life or future of the character. Examples include: The Dubliners 'Eveline' by James Joyce; and The Hitch-hiker by Roald Dahl.
  • Parallel and Frame Structures – Parallel and frame stories use narrative structures that rely deeply on the role of the narrators to convey layers of meaning. A framing narrative contains a second narrative or narratives to provide a context or setting for it. The framing narrative sets the scene for the other story or stories, providing a context for reading and understanding the text. Parallel structure refers to two specifically different, yet closely related story lines that occur at the same time. Examples include: The Canterbury Tales; and X-Men.
  • Flashbacks and Stream of Consciousness – Short stories written in nonlinear narrative structures are not concerned with chronological sequencing of events. This practice often portrays stories of one’s youth, such as innocence lost, or personal growth, using flashbacks and memories and time-shifting devices. The older character looks back with the benefit of reflection on one’s own story or a story in which they have a role. Examples include: The Great Gatsby; Jane Eyre; and To Kill a Mockingbird.
    • Circular Stories – A circular narrative will conclude where it began. This ends where it begins or begins at the end. This structure hooks the reader and makes us curious about how the characters ended up where they are. It creates a sense of destiny and inescapability. Rather than pulling together the remaining piece of the narrative with a neat conclusion, a circular narrative brings closure through a return to the theme introduced at the beginning. Examples include: Blood Brothers; and Romeo and Juliet.

Narrative structure is about two things: the content of a story and the form used to tell the story. Two ways to describe the two parts of narrative structure are story and plot.

Story refers to the raw materials of dramatic action as they might be described in chronological order. Plot refers to how the story is told — the form of storytelling, or the structure, that the story follows.

If we want to analyze narrative structure, we can use “who,” “what,” and “where” questions to look at the story or content of a movie. “How” and “when” questions are used to examine plot structure.

Both story and plot are described in terms of how a character’s life is disrupted by an event or change in his/her situation ; this causes a series of conflicts that the character(s) must face, including the major conflicts that is eventually resolved at the end of the film.

 “Conflicts” can take many forms, be it emotional, interpersonal, or even between the character and his/her physical environment.

The primary types of narrative structure, or story structure, come in these forms:
    • Novels
    • Poems or Poetry
    • Drama or Plays
    • Short Stories
    • Novellas
    • Myths, Legends, Folktales, Fairy Tales, and Epics