Narrative vs. Exposition in a Story

Exposition and narration are two of the four most common rhetorical modes, or modes of discourse. The other two are argumentation and description. Besides organizing the different kinds of writing according to convention and purpose, these categories can also be found within a story. A story, also known as a narrative, is an account of events that includes characterization, setting and plot. Within a story, exposition is what creates rising action while narration guides the telling of the story.

What is Exposition?

The purpose of exposition, also known as expository writing, is ​to explain and inform the reader about a particular topic.​ Expository writing presents a particular idea with all the relevant evidence. Within a story, exposition is the beginning of the narrative arc. It is something that creates the story’s rising action which then reaches the climax and continues through into the resolution. The story’s exposition phase shows the reader all the information needed in order to fully understand later parts of the story.

Elements of Exposition

The exposition phase of a story consists of three main elements:

  1. characters
  2. setting
  3. mood

The ​characters​ face the primary conflict in the story. The ​setting​ of the story is the story’s time and place; time can refer to a particular date or time period and the place can refer to a specific location, such as a house, city or forest, or it can refer to a more general backdrop, such as a social environment. The setting situates the story in a particular milieu, grounding the story’s characters and the conflict to a particular world. The ​mood​ of the story refers to its atmosphere, and it is established using particular language. For example, a Gothic story may use figurative and descriptive language to describe an old abandoned mansion in order to create the mood of mystery.

What is Narration?

The purpose of narration, also known as narrative writing, is ​to tell a story.​ All stories have a narrator and the story’s narrator puts different elements of a story into a particular order in order to achieve a particular kind of effect.


Narration may tell the story chronologically in order to show the natural unfolding of the story or not chronologically in order to grab the reader’s attention in the beginning.

Narrative Points of View

There are many types of narration, because there are many different ways that a story can be told. A major element in the type of narration is the narrative point of view; there are also many different points of view but, in general, these points of view can be grouped into three categories. The story’s narration may be told from one of three points of view:

  1. first-person
  2. third-person
  3. second-person.

A ​first-person narrator​ describes his thoughts and feelings and tells the story using “I.” The ​third-person narrator​ creates greater distance between himself and the characters by using the pronouns “she” or “he.” Some stories use ​second-person narration​, but it is much less common. A second-person narrator addresses the reader directly, using the pronoun "you."

Cite this Article