What is a Narrative?

There are several ways to tell a story. However, no matter what genre the story is told in, there always needs to be a link to make sure that everything stays together. This is done through the use of a narrative. Understanding what a narrative is and how it is used in literature can help in defining how characters speak, as well as what drives a story forward.


The concept of the narrative can be traced back into all cultures from ancient times. This begins with stories and myths that were told orally or through a piece of paper. When these were told, they would use a narrator that would describe the events and ideas to everyone else. Along with this concept of narration, was the voice of the story tellers that grew into a specific set of attributes. In the Latin, the term means to recount. It is also known that this word is directly linked to knowing. This means that the major concept of the narration is to recount what is known to others.


Narration, unlike other parts of literature, is not linked to a specific genre, time period or technique. Instead, it includes all forms of literature. When there is narration, a story is simply being recalled or told by others. The differences in narration depends on the type of voice that is used to recall a story. Generally, narration will be told by a narrator. However, this narrator can move across genres. For example, if the work is non-fiction, than the narration will speak in a voice that simply recalls events. If the narration is in fiction, such as a novel, the narration may take on a different type of voice to recall the events throughout the story. This is known as point of view, and is divided by the person that is telling the story. With this, the narration will tell the story through a specific point of view, which includes information that the narrator reveals at certain times, as well as actions that the narrator supplies to set up a dilemma and to solve it, or to pass along information.


With whatever type of view point is being told, and in whatever literature is being used, the narration is the one part of literature that drives any story forward. The voice that is used to tell facts or fiction also allows the author to drive home the main point of the piece of literature that is being worked on. If the narration in a story or in a factual piece of work does not have a strong voice, meaning that it can not relate to the person reading the story, or that it misses main points, than it is the narration that will cause the book or literary piece to not be read. Because of this, the narration remains one of the most important pieces of literature when providing readers with seeing a specific point of view, understanding a story or getting a major concept across.


With the range of genres, and literary works are also several types of theories linked to how the narrative can be used. This includes basic ways that authors can use the voice of the narrator to conceive a message in any type of literature. Following are some of the theories that literary critics have added into the concept of narration.
- The minimal narrative. This includes a narrative that provides basic information, but leaves out the details. The reader is then left to interpret what the author is trying to say, while coming up with their own conclusions of what the literature is referring to or is about.
- Fully developed, natural narrative. In this type of narrative, there are very specific cues that the narrator takes to get through a story. This includes showing a concept, an action, evaluating what happens and resolving this. In this way, the narrator is telling a story through creating a scenario and resolving it through their use of words.
- Levels of narration. This refers to how involved a narrator can get. This is divided by the action, mediation and communication that the narrator adds into any story, and how this relates from the author and to the reader. - Matrix narrative. In this type of narrative, one story links to another, which links to another. This continues on endless points, with each narration connecting at some 'degree' from one to another. This is a more abstract link to telling a story, and is sometimes referred to as hypno-narratives.

Expert Insight

Whether you are writing or reading, the most important part to remember with a narrative is related to who your audience is. This allows you to relate to the individuals that you need to on the correct level. This is also, often times referred to as the voice of the narrator.
If your narrator needs to be active in revealing the story, such as through details and action, than this is the type of narration to consider. If your narrator is simply supplying information, than a passive voice or tone may work better to convey the point. From this, you can move into narrations that include forms and theories to make your literature even better.

About the Author

Brooke Hart has been writing since she learned how to read, focusing on developing stories, poems and screen plays. She continued this with studies in English, receiving a Bachelors and creative writing to obtain a Masters degree. She has been writing for over five years with her own business, Orion Information Services.