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List of Narrative Styles


Authors employ different styles to tell their story, depending on what role the narrator plays in the story. Sometimes, the narrator is the main character and fundamentally involved in almost every aspect of the story. More often, they are just an observer and are relating the events that have occurred, similar to a reporter. On rare occasions, narratives are written to include the reader in the story into the story or the perspectives of several characters within the story. Narrative style is accomplished through the use of four main styles: First-person narrative, third-person narrative, alternating-person narrative and second-person narrative,

First-Person Narrative

Seeing the action that occurs in a story through the eyes of the person telling the story is known as the first-person narrative. Through the use of first-person narration, the reader is led on a journey through the story, complete with personal biases and feelings, by a character in the story. More often than not this, character is the protagonist, or main character, of the story. In general, first-person narrative is told in the present and tells the story of what happened in the past.

Third-Person Narrative

The third-person narrative style takes a more observatory approach to the actions occurring within the written piece. Protagonists are referred to as "he," "she," "it," "they" and "them" and allows the reader to watch the events unfold as opposed to being more involved, as in the case of first-person or second-person narrative. Third-person narration allows the narrator to be more objective when telling the story because, in that style, they are often telling the story as it occurs as opposed to being a character in the story who is directly affected by the actions that occur.

Alternating-Person Narrative

Taking the point of view of different characters in a story is known as an alternating person narrative. While the story is still told mostly from the perspective of the main protagonist, there are times in the story where other points of view from major characters are shared as well. Historical examples of these include "Treasure Island," by Robert Louis Stevenson, which alternates between first- and third-person narration, and "Frankenstein," by Mary Shelley, which reveals plot lines through the use of letters written by other characters in the story.

Second-Person Narrative

Putting the reader in the place of the narrator is a device employed by the use of second-person narration. This form of narration is seldom used in traditional fiction or non-fiction writing. Certain aspects of the narration are turned around onto the reader through the employment of second-person pronouns such as "you" and "your." Noteworthy examples of the use of the second-person narrative include William Faulkner's "Absalom! Absalom!" and "Bright Lights, Big City" by Jay McInerney.

About the Author

Based in Virginia Beach, Mark S. Baker has been working in editorial for more than 20 years. He has served as a writer and editor for publications such as the "Houston Post," "Boca Raton News" and "Interactive Week," among others. Baker also has a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University and has his own catering business.

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