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Characteristics of Narrative Text


Literary experts recognize four types of text: expository, narrative, argumentative and descriptive. Each has its own purpose, sub-type, structure and style. The purpose of narrative text is generally to entertain, inform or express ideas. Its sub-types include fables, memoirs and adventure stories. Narrative text most often has a five-part structure. Stylistically, narratives can be described in many ways, including comic, tragic, sentimental, reflective and ironic.

Purpose

The purpose of a narrative is usually to entertain through story-telling. Details, such as exotic settings, intricate plots and finely drawn characters can add to the appeal of the story. Narratives also communicate ideas about the meaning of life, families, morals and values and spirituality. Many famous narrative texts such as "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "The Grapes of Wrath" and "1984" have influenced social conventions.

Sub-Types

Narrative text is often classified by sub-types or genres. Some common narrative genres include detective fiction, historical narratives, memoirs, science fiction, fables and myths. Each genre contains its own narrative tropes, plot devices and character types.

Structure

Narratives commonly have a five-part structure (sometimes called Freytag's Pyramid) comprising an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement. More complex narratives can employ sub-structures, digressions, flashbacks, back story and multiple perspectives.

Style

The style of a narrative is a choice made by the author based in part on text's genre, purpose and structure. For example, a detective story written for entertainment and employing a conventional five-part structure, may have a style which is witty, fast-paced and ironic. A memoir about growing up during China's Cultural Revolution, written to educate readers and communicate ideas about the meaning of an historical event, may have a style that is reflective, tragic and dense.

About the Author

Colby Phillips' writing interests include culture and politics. Phillips received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Oregon and a Master of Arts in philosophy from Boston College.

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