What Is a Direct Narrative?
In a direct narrative, the writer describes the action or events in a story in detail. This description is expressed as if an actual scene is occurring. It is not enough for the writer to merely "tell" the reader what is occurring, they have to "show" the reader what is occurring. For example, if the writer tells about a character walking down the street in a direct narrative he would discuss every detail of that experience. This often involves narrator commentary in between, surrounding and even throughout the speech. The purpose is to express exactly what a character says by using point of view, characterization, atmosphere and conflict.
Point of View
Point of view, or POV, in a narrative is the outlook or angle the story takes. The purpose of direct narrative in point of view is to guide the reader along a set path to control what he sees and knows. In direct narration, the author not only tells the story, but becomes involved in the story as well by becoming a character or omniscient observer. If a narrator only wants the reader to know as much as the other characters, he can write in limited first person from the POV of one of the characters. If he wants the reader to get a broader picture, however, he may tell the story in third-person omniscient so the reader knows not only the actions of all the characters, but their thoughts as well. Direct narration in POV differs from standard narration in that direct narration tends to remain steady and avoid unnecessary shifts between first, second or third person or between singular and plural themes, which can be very confusing to readers.
In direct narration, not only does the author create characters for the story, he creates a narrator as well. This allows the author to speak to the audience in several different ways. Frequently, the author will speak through the characters by describing them directly. In addition, not only do the characters have dialogue that gives the audience information, but the narrator provides direct narration of everything that is happening around the characters. This can be done in descriptions from the characters themselves, descriptions made by other characters about individuals around them, or by the narrator directly with a third person narrative. The reader doesn’t have to infer or interpret things about the characters as the author literally tells the audience what a character is like.
In the direct narrative, atmosphere is created by the author using specific words to dictate how the reader should feel. The words the author uses are designed to make the reader feel a certain way about everything, from what is occurring in the story, to an appropriate response to characters in the story. The narrator controls every aspect of the atmosphere simply by the tone he chooses to create with the words he uses. The same scenario can be expressed in a different way if the author refers to it by different terminology. The same dark night can be portrayed either frighteningly or calmly, simply through the words the author uses to describe it.
The setting is a specific way of identifying where a story takes place. The author uses setting to control the perceptions of the reader. In some stories, the setting can even become a character of its own, as in man versus nature. Think of Jack London's "Call of the Wild," where both Buck and the Klondike are the main characters. In direct narrative, the author also frequently uses the setting in the passage of time to indicate the lengths and distances a character has progressed, or how the character has evolved over time.
- Rubie, Peter. How to Tell a Story: The Secrets of Writing Captivating Tales. Writer's Digest Books; 1st edition, July 1998.
- Lunsford, Andrea, The Everyday Writer, 4th Edition, Bedford/St. Martin’ Press, 2009.
- Banfield, Ann. "Narrative Style and the Grammar of Direct and Indirect Speech." Foundations of Language 10 New York: Routledge, (1973).
Hailing from sunny Florida, Kris Fields has been writing professionally since 2000 when she started out working in the Business and Community News sections for "The Florida Times Union." Fields holds both a bachelor's and a master's degree in English from the University of North Florida and teaches English and business writing for college.