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What Are the Characteristics of a Narrative Story?


A narrative is a story told from the personal perspective of a character. Narratives may be fiction or nonfiction, and narrative fiction encompasses many types. Whatever genre they're part of, narrative stories are defined by the point of view of the character and include descriptive language to explain the conflict in a fluid timeline.

First-Person Perspective

The narrative story is told from the first-person perspective of the main character, the narrator, and this character will use the first-person pronoun "I." The reader experiences the action along with the main character, learns things when the character learns them and gets a glimpse into that character's thoughts and emotions. The narrator may be the main character, a secondary character or a removed observer, but the perspective of the narrator affects the tone and perspective of the story.

Conflict as Catalyst

Conflict is essential to any story because it is the reason the action unfolds. Without an obstacle to overcome, there is no reason for the protagonist to become the hero or the antagonist to become the villain.

In a narrative, whether fiction or nonfiction, the conflict is the reason the narrator is telling the story. The conflict centers on a problem the main characters have to solve. Even if the narrator is a casual observer and is not involved in solving the problem, the conflict is fundamental to the story.

A Complete Story

Both nonfiction and fiction narratives should address the w's: who, what, where and when. Narrative fiction should include detailed characters and setting as well as the basic elements of a plot: introduction, rising action, climax and falling action. The narrator communicates the events that push the plot along.

Nonfiction narratives still communicate the characters, the conflict, the setting and the timeline. The beginning draws the reader in, and the action builds to the ultimate point of conflict in the story, followed by a resolution or conclusion of the problem.

Descriptive Language

The narrator communicates every detail and event to the reader, and descriptive language is necessary to bringing the narrative to life. Vivid, creative details turn a string of events into an engaging narrative. The narrator serves as the eyes and ears for the reader; events, characters and settings should be described so the reader fully understands the context of the story. The perspective and tone of the narrator will determine what descriptive language is used.

About the Author

Hannah Richardson has a Master's degree in Special Education from Vanderbilt University and a Bacheor of Arts in English. She has been a writer since 2004 and wrote regularly for the sports and features sections of "The Technician" newspaper, as well as "Coastwach" magazine. Richardson also served as the co-editor-in-chief of "Windhover," an award-winning literary and arts magazine. She is currently teaching at a middle school.

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