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Understanding Narrative

jeremy | Tuesday December 01, 2009

Categories: Key Concepts, Narrative, Understanding Media, Understanding Key Concepts

Narrative is the media term for story telling. Narrative is the way the different elements in a story are organised to make a meaningful story. Some of these elements can be facts as in a documentary, or characters and action as in a drama.

Narrative, or telling stories, is our way of making sense of the world about us and trying to put some meaning into that world.

Because we live in a world that is organised by time – hours of the day, days of the month, the years, so story telling starts off as being linear.

We tell a story as a line of events. Then she did this, then he did that, then they got married.

All cultures in all countries tell stories; theorists recognise that story telling is an important part of being human.

When we look at narrative we see that stories throughout the media share certain characteristics. This often links them to genre.
Different media tell stories in a variety of different ways.

The key areas concerned with narrative are:

Narrative structure is the way the story or plot unfolds. Is the story an open or closed structure. A closed structure means the story ends satisfactorily as in most films – this is known as closure, with the girl getting the boy or the hero saving the planet.

An open ending means there is no final conclusion to the story – a television soap has no final ending, it just has minor endings ( a character gets killed). The audience may be are asked to decide how an open story ends.

Some texts have an interactive structure where the audience is asked to be involved in deciding the outcome of a programme. Reality television series such as Big Brother and X Factor rely on the audience’s vote to continue the series.

A multi-strand structure means there are several narratives running at the same time. This is very common in television and radio soaps and ongoing drama series, such as Holby City, and The Bill.

Other narrative structures include point of view (POV). The...

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