story or a narrative is an account of events.
But it is not just any sort of account of any events.
It is a selection and ordering of events into a
meaningful pattern. More simply put, narrative
structure is about the the ways in which a story has
been structured or put together.
is consequential sequence of events.
Its typical structure begins with a setting of the scene
and introduction of characters in an initial situation,
a state of relative equilibrium.
- It then
proceeds to a disruption of this equilibrium, with the
emergence of some sort of catalyst for the eruption
of tension, conflict, misunderstanding, contradiction,
mystery or loss.
- There follows
an exploration of the causes, implications or consequences.
Then come various attempts at resolution, which build
toward a climax, a high point of tension, bringing revelation
- It ends
with a resolution in a new state of relative equilibrium.
structure controls what the writer wants the reader to know.
Narrative structure is about ORDER OF EVENTS (sequence),
it is about POINT OF VIEW (the perspective from
which the events of the story are revealed),
it is about CONFLICT DEVELOPMENT and RESOLUTION (rising
action resulting from conflict, which is resolved
to some degree and becomes falling action).
triangle (you don't need to know this term), or
what I call a plot diagram, plots the orientation
or exposition, the rising action and minor crises,
the climax and the resolution. The events along this
pathway make up the STRUCTURE of the narrative.
- BUT, this sequence is not necessarily chronological.
In ATFD some parts of the text are in flashback
from the first person narrative perspective. Other parts,
are in the third person narrative, following the actions
(from the perspective of, including thoughts and author
revealed details about) multiple characters.
A group of terrorists hijack a bus, kill some people,
ultimately cause the suicide of a young boy, and psychologically
damage his father; this is the story of After
the First Death. However, the narrative
structure of this same story is very different.
Why has Updike chosen to tell
his story in such an unusual way? Ben's first person
perspective is through the eyes of a mentally and
physically wounded boy (even if Ben is actually Mark
it doesn't matter because Mark has assumed the identity
of this disturbed son). What Ben reveals is 'up-close-and-personal'.
We the readers see the world as Ben sees it. NOW,
why does Updike reveal events on the bus from several
perspectives and in the third person omniscient? Why
not stay with Ben? Answer, so that he can provide
us with details that will make us think about and
understand those characters; details which he
(Updike) wants us to know about. Why? So that we get
to make judgements about different characters' motives,
understand that even they don't understand
themselves (who really does?) and then we come to
a PARTICULAR VIEW OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE otherwise known
In telling events in different order (sequence) from
the way they occurred chronolgically, and by looking
at events from different characters' perspectives
(point of view), the author increases the ways in
which he can make / shape / construct meaning or THEME
- In addition, SUSPENSE is created as we are given
some bits of info while being withheld others. The plot
twists and turns, the unususual or unexpected may throw
us off course. What is going to happen next? Will these
people's problems be resolved? Must read on! The writer
creates and present plot COMPLICATIONS in varied ways.
Remember that plot graph.In any short story or novel
a labelled plot diagram graphs these crises /complications,
these twists and turns. These developments are part
of the STRUCTURE of the story.
Narrative Structure may contain the following:
- dream sequences
- different characters' point of view
- multiple plot lines converging at the end
- flash forwards
- different time frames
- pre-figuring of events that have not yet taken place
- circular plotting where we are led back to the beginning
- backwards story telling, where the denoument is shown
explained through the plot.
of Varied Narrative Structure
As well as
providing a deeper and more interesting sequence of events,
narrative structure can position the reader to think and
feel a wider range of responses by providing differing
views or perspectives in experiencing / viewing the action.
These maintain or increase interest, develop conflict, help construct theme