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Narrative: Basic Elements.

Basic Elements of Narrative

Background and Context: Framing the Approach. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Narrative and Narrative Theory. Major Trends in Recent Scholarship on Narrative. Back to the Elements: Narrative Occasions. Situating Stories. Sociolinguistic Approaches. Positioning Theory. The Narrative Communication Model.

Text Types and Categorization Processes. Narrative as a Text-Type Category: Descriptions vs. Stories vs. Narratives as Blueprints for Worldmaking. Narrative Ways of Worldmaking.

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Alternate history Backstory Dystopia Fictional location city country universe Utopia. Irony Leitmotif Metaphor Moral Motif. Linear narrative Nonlinear narrative films television series Types of fiction with multiple endings. First-person Multiple narrators Stream of consciousness Stream of unconsciousness Unreliable Diegesis.

Past Present Future. Categories : Setting Fiction Narratology. Namespaces Article Talk. The Maltese Falcon is a powerful MacGuffin in the film of the same name, a supposedly jewel encrusted black bird which creates the greed which propels every character, even the hero. The Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer are prime examples. The latter work begins with the return of Odysseus to his home of Ithaka and then in flashbacks tells of his ten years of wandering following the Trojan War.

A sudden interruption of the wordplay flow indicating the end of a rakugo or a kobanashi. A Rakugo is a Japanese verbal entertainment usually lasting 30 minutes which ends with a surprise punch line, a narrative stunt known as ochi fall or sage lowering. Twelve kinds of ochi are codified and recognized.

Basic Elements of a Short Story

The earlier kobanashi was a short comical vignette ending with an ochi. Unexpected change "twist" in the direction or expected outcome of the plot. See also twist ending. A locked chest found by a fisherman contains a dead body, and two different men claim to be the murderer, which turns out to be the investigator's own slave. Virtue ultimately rewarded, or vice punished, by an ironic twist of fate related to the character's own conduct. Wile E. Coyote coming up with a contraption to catch the Road Runner, only to be foiled and caught by his own devices. Each sin's punishment in Dante's Inferno is a symbolic instance of poetic justice.

Predestination paradox.

Tips for using narrative story elements in your reporting

Time travel paradox where a time traveler is caught in a loop of events that "predestines" them to travel back in time. In Doctor Who , the main character repeatedly finds himself under the obligation of having to travel back in time because of something his future character has done. Plot device based on an argument that an agreement's intended meaning holds no legal value, and that only the exact, literal words agreed on apply. For example, William Shakespeare used a quibble in The Merchant of Venice : Portia saves Antonio in a court of law by pointing out that the agreement called for a pound of flesh, but no blood, so Shylock can collect only if he sheds no blood.

Red herring. For example, in mystery fiction, an innocent party may be purposefully cast as highly suspicious through emphasis or descriptive techniques to divert attention from the true guilty party. Self-fulfilling prophecy. Early examples include the legend of Oedipus , and the story of Krishna in the Mahabharata.


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There is also an example of this in Harry Potter when Lord Voldemort heard a prophecy made by Sybill Trelawney to Dumbledore that a boy born at the end of July, whose parents had defied Voldemort thrice and survived, would be made marked as his equal. Because of this prophecy, Lord Voldemort sought out Harry Potter believing him to be the boy spoken of and tried to kill him. His parents died protecting him, and when Voldemort tried to cast a killing curse on Harry, it rebounded and took away most of his strength, and gave Harry Potter a unique ability and connection with the Dark Lord thus marking him as his equal.

Story within a story Hypodiegesis.


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  • A story told within another story. See also frame story. In Stephen King's The Wind Through the Keyhole , of the Dark Tower series, the protagonist tells a story from his past to his companions, and in this story he tells another relatively unrelated story. Ticking clock scenario. Threat of impending disaster—often used in thrillers where salvation and escape are essential elements.

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    In the TV show 24 , the main character, Jack Bauer often finds himself interrogating a terrorist who is caught in order to disarm a bomb. A dramatic principle that requires every element in a narrative to be irreplaceable, with anything else removed. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.

    If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there. The narrator of the story is not sincere, or introduces a bias in their narration and possibly misleads the reader, hiding or minimizing events, characters, or motivations. An example is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The novel includes an unexpected plot twist at the end of the novel. In the last chapter, Sheppard describes how he was an unreliable narrator.

    A character who expresses the questions and confusion of the audience, with whom the audience can identify.

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    Frequently used in detective fiction and science fiction, where the character asks a central character how he or she accomplished certain deeds, for the purpose of inciting that character to explain for the curious audience his or her methods, or a character asking a relatively educated person to explain what amounts to the backstory. Dr Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories. Scott Evil , played by Seth Green, son of Dr. Evil on the Austin Powers movies. Characters which are based on authors, usually to support their personal views. Sometimes an intentionally or unintentionally idealized version of them.

    A variation is the Mary Sue or Gary Stu, which primarily serves as an idealized self-insertion. Socrates in the writings of Plato. Plato never speaks in his own voice in his dialogues.

    Basic Elements of Narrative

    An author or character addresses the audience directly also known as direct address. This may acknowledge to the reader or audience that what is being presented is fiction, or may seek to extend the world of the story to provide the illusion that they are included in it. The characters in Sesame Street often break the fourth wall when they address their viewers as part of the ongoing storyline, which is possible because of the high level of suspension of belief afforded by its audience—children.

    The American political drama show House of Cards also uses this technique frequently to let the viewers know what the main character Frank Underwood is thinking and planning. Taking an everyday object and presenting it in a way that is weirdly unfamiliar so that we see the object in a new way. First-person narration.

    A text presented from the point of view of a character, especially the protagonist, as if the character is telling the story themselves. Breaking the fourth wall is an option, but not a necessity, of this format.


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    Mark Twain 's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn uses the title character as the narrator, while Sherlock Holmes is primarily told from Watson's perspective. The film, The Wolf of Wall Street , uses this technique where the protagonist narrates the film's events throughout, providing clarity that could not be gained from the picture and dialogue alone.

    Describing events in a real-world setting but with magical trappings, often incorporating local customs and invented beliefs. Different from urban fantasy in that the magic itself is not the focus of the story. Elsewhere, Salman Rushdie's work provides good examples. A narrative that is told from the viewpoints of multiple characters that incorporate various perspectives, emotions, and views from witnesses or actors to varying particular events or circumstances that might not be felt by other characters in the story.

    The films of Robert Altman. Kinbote is the ultimate unreliable commentator. Stream of consciousness. The author uses narrative and stylistic devices to create the sense of an unedited interior monologue , characterized by leaps in syntax and punctuation that trace a character's fragmentary thoughts and sensory feelings. The outcome is a highly lucid perspective with a plot.

    Not to be confused with free writing.