What is Narrative Structure?
The narrative is essentially the storyline or plot. Narrative structure is the way the events of this plot line are organised and pieced together so that they make sense to the audience. Without a narrative structure, stories would not make sense to readers and viewers because things would be happening in strange orders. For example, think of your favourite film. If the movie started with something that happened in the middle of the movie, and ended with what was supposed to be the beginning, would this make sense to you as a viewer? The answer is no. However, some movies and story books start with the ending on purpose, and then the rest of the film/book is about how that equilibrium came to be, or what happened before it got to that stage in the story. The reason they do this is because it is different from the norm, making it more interesting to their audiences.
Typically, a narrative structure starts with an introduction that starts in a state of equilibrium (introducing characters, setting etc), then moves on to a disruption or disturbance in the equilibrium, which messes up the balance of things. This usually creates conflict, tension, loss, mystery, contradiction, or a misunderstanding. Proceeding from this is normally an investigation into why this happened, or the consequences that have resulted from what happened. Finally, following all this, is the finale which is a resolution that creates a new state of equilibrium. This either restores the balance that once was, or creates a new balance.
The above kind of structure applies to most fairy tales. For example, Snow White is living with the seven dwarfs (equilibrium), the witch gives her a bite of a poisoned apple, and Snow White dies (disruption). Following this, the Prince finds Snow White and kisses her, allowing Snow White to come back to life (a new equilibrium). This structure is more famously known as beginning, middle and end.
There is a theory called Freytag's Triangle which is also known as a plot diagram. This tool is usually used to help plot, invent or create a basic narrative structure. First you would plot the exposition of the story, the disruption or conflict, and then the resolution. This helps writers create the structure to their story. However, as mentioned earlier, not all writers/producers write stories chronologically on purpose. Instead, they include flash backs/flash forwards or include thoughts and points of views from characters etc.
Many story writers like structuring their narratives in different ways because it increases/expands the amount of ways in which they can shape, make or construct the meaning of their stories for readers to find more interesting, appealing and stay hooked. Another feature that writers like to use frequently in narrative structure is plot twists. Firstly, they create suspense by releasing bits of information and withholding other parts back to keep the audience guessing. Then they throw in unexpected twists and turns to throw the audience off course. What will happen next? Will it be a happy ending? You'll just have to keep reading! This is a brilliant feature for writers to use as it makes readers want to find out more and read on.
So if you're ever going to consider writing a book, short story or movie script, consider narrative structure and all the features that apply. You never know, maybe you'll become famous for your signature plot twists in your narratives!
Written By: Pippa Timmons (Stockport, United Kingdom)
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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )