Writing techniques

Narrative Form: Definition And Examples

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: June 17, 2020
Narrative Form: Definition And Examples

Writing in narrative form is synonymous to telling a story. Whether it's fiction or a real life event, we use narrative for many different purposes. We may want to convince someone of something we believe to be true. We may want to convince someone of something we know is not true. You can elicit certain emotions, whether happiness or sadness, or simply try to make someone laugh. For each purpose, there will be a narrative form which is best suited to it. Here at oneHOWTO, we provide an introduction to narrative form with definition and examples. We will show how connecting events and information into a narrative is one of the most powerful tools in story telling.

  1. Definition of narrative form
  2. When is Narrative Form Used?
  3. Components of narrative form
  4. Example of basic narrative form
  5. How to write a basic narrative
  6. Examples of different types of narrative form

Definition of narrative form

Narrative form of writing is a literary element that provides a structural framework to describe the manner and order of a story or event. Plot and structure of the narrative play a very significant role in successful writing. In simple words, narrative form can be defined as the structure of content used to tell a story. In this way it is a form of rhetoric as it is trying to convey something from one mind to another through discourse.

Story is the dramatic action relayed to someone else, whether written or spoken. It involves connected events which are put together to convey something. Plot is how and in which order these events are put together. Story describes the main characters, their setting, actions, conflicts and events which drive the narrative. Plot determines the stages of events in a story and how they are placed in the narrative.

When is Narrative Form Used?

You can use the narrative form while writing an entire piece of work that tells a story, such as a novel or short story It can be used to describe a brief event while trying to make a point clear. Narrative form is best used in a speech or a less formal paper where you describe a story or a personal experience to engage your audience or to provide evidence to support your argument. Narrative form is also great to use while writing an essay, non-fictional document, commentary etc. Its least used in a memo, proposal, formal report, inter-office communication and other such descriptions.

You may use narrative form in larger presentation or papers, once or multiple times. It is often used to tell a story in a document or speech. The key to using the narrative form is to use all the five components successfully. To summarize, narrative form is widely used in biographies, autobiographies, epic poems, fables, fantasies, folk tales, historical fiction works, memoirs, news, myths, novels, plays, short stories, tell tales and others. It's also

Components of narrative form

Many literary theorists claim there to be five basic elements needed to construct a suitable narrative. The way in which they are used creates the form of the narrative. Of course, many writers have played with these parts of narrative form in different ways, but even eschewing narrative form is part of narrative form. But let's not complicate things and take a look at these narrative elements:

  1. Characters: While most common characters are humans, you may use almost anything living or non-living to personify your character. Your character can be anything from an animal or alien to a rock or cloud. One thing you need to ensure is that your characters speak and think, or at least do something to make a story. Characters are the most fundamental elements of narrative form.
  2. Setting: This is the situation or location in which you will set your characters. While reading or listening to your story, a person should be able to relate and envision their surroundings. In English literature, this is particularly helpful in making readers understand the incident you are trying to describe.
  3. Plot: Plot forms the beginning, middle and end of your story. It provides a connection between ideas to make the narrative understandable. In the absence of a structured plot, your story may go awry. For instance, if your story does not have a clear ending or if you failed to establish your beginning properly, people will be unable to connect the story together. Many postmodern writers purposefully ignore plot to convey their meaning, one of the reasons they can be difficult to understand.
  4. Conflict: Conflict refers to the issues which arise as the events in your story develop. Conflict is important, even if it is not a major one. Even a simple children’s story has an issue its characters are trying to resolve. Whether simple or a complicated one, a story needs to have a conflict. This gives a reason to your audience or readers to continue listening or reading. Absence of a conflict can quickly make your audience or reader lose interest. Essentially, you can have a story without conflict, but it is unlikely to be an interesting one.
  5. Resolution: Resolution refers to the ending of a conflict. In addition to providing the resolution, you also need to show how it came in and how the conflict was resolved. Not providing a resolution will leave your audience or listeners hanging. Leaving an audience without a resolution does happen in narratives, but it often leaves readers feeling dissatisfied.

According to screenplay theorist Syd Field, "All drama is conflict. Without conflict, there is no action. Without action there is no character. Without character there is no story. And without story there is no screenplay."[1] Of course, this is really only describing one type of story or narrative form. Some of the most artistically rewarding works are those which play with types of conflict.

Narrative Form: Definition And Examples - Components of narrative form

Example of basic narrative form

You must have heard the classic The Thirsty Crow story. It is a perfect example of an appropriately structured narrative form. Let’s see how this story encompasses all the five elements of a good narrative in it:

Characters: The crow

Setting: Sky is the location where the crow is flying across in search of some water

Plot: The crow is thirsty, and he finds a pot with very little water in it

Conflict: There is very little water in the pot, and the crow has to do something to get that water and quench his thirst

Resolution: The crow found some pebbles around the pot. He throws some pebbles into the pot, so that the level of water rises up and he is able to drink the water in the end

The story would have been incomplete if it had missed even a single component in its narrative. That’s why it is important for the reader to connect the issues, understand the conflict and find a resolution in the end. Without any of them, the story would be incomplete.

How to write a basic narrative

Follow these rules if you are trying to write in narrative form:

Introduction: The starting point of your story is essential, and it should be interesting enough to grab your readers’ or listeners’ attention. It should be engaging to make them wonder what’s coming next. Write it in 1st or 3rd person. Start it with a quote or a strong statement so as to intrigue your readers immediately. The end part of your introduction should talk about the direction you are going take after this. Make sure your introduction is short, precise, relatable and interesting.

Body paragraphs: These are the paragraphs where you develop and end your narration. Start with the setting of the event, then introduce your characters, and develop them to let the conflicting situation creep in. Use emotions and feelings to make the conflicts serious enough, and bring a resolution to each of them.

Conclusion: In the end, you need to give it a nice conclusion. Similar to the introduction, the conclusion paragraph also bears major significance. This part usually contains the moral of the story, analysis or reflection of the event’s important to the writer and the reader as well. This gives you another opportunity to make your readers relate to the story. You may use this segment to explain the lesson learned from the events of the story and how they affected your life. You may also include a call-to-action to make the readers aware of an issue.

Some tips to write better in narrative form include:

  • Start with a fact, question, quote or definition, or anything else that seems interesting, catchy and relevant
  • Use formal language
  • Use details
  • Use dialogues when necessary
  • Keep the sentence structures changing in order to maintain interest
  • The easiest way to writing in narrative form is to describe the events in chronological order

Examples of different types of narrative form

  • Short story: short stories are pieces of short narrative fiction which are generally designed to be read in one sitting. They can have many purposes and even short stories can play with any of the five main elements of narrative form. Take the story Unprotected by Simon Rich[2]. It tells the story of a prophylactic owned by a young man, providing thoughts, feelings and actions to an inanimate object.
  • Poetry: poetry has existed in many cultures throughout the beginning of human communication. It was often not written down, but was one of the most efficient ways to convey an idea. There is much poetry which is considered non-narrative and this can help us to understand narrative more. An example is Gertrude Stein's non-narrative poem Sacred Emily[3] which has the famous line “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”. There is no real character, plot, setting, conflict or resolution. However, those wishing to interpret it can intimate these things from the poem if they wish.
  • Speech: speeches contain narrative form. They address an audience and make a point with their meaning. Some are relatively epic which can tell a story to make a point. Some are more abstract and may not even make the most sense to the listener without certain context.
  • Film: film is one of the most popular ways to enjoy certain narratives. It is more passive than reading and is often entertaining, especially if people are wanting to make money from them. There are many filmmakers in the history of cinema, however, who like to play with narrative form. These can be from people who want to make bold artistic statements in film, such as Jean Luc Godard[4] to populist filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino who use changes in narrative to make entertainment.
  • Jokes: jokes are often little more than short stories. According to psychologist Richard Wiseman, there is a joke which is scientifically the funniest in the world. It is as follows:Two hunters are in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps. “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator says “Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead.” There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says “OK, now what?”[5]This story has characters (the hunters, the operator), a setting (the woods), a plot (the collapse, the phone call, the gunshot), a conflict (man collapses, friend doesn't want him to die) and a resolution (‘now what?’).

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Narrative Form: Definition And Examples