Aspects of Narrative
Terms in this set (60)
A protagonist characterised by his or her weaknesses or failings rather than admirable qualities. Sometimes used to refer to a protagonist who, despite behaving in ways in which appall us, engages our sympathies.
The techniques a writer uses to construct a fictional character, for example, what they say, how they speak, what they do, attitudes they express, description by the narrator or in the voices of other characters (appearance, personality, attitudes, behaviour)
Chronological and narrative time
The order in which events take place, with one thing following another. Narrative time may follow chronological time. An author may choose to manipulate time by telling the story in a different order from which these events happened, using flashbacks, compressing or leaping time.
The closing of the narrative in which all of the loose ends are tied up and all questions answered. Some modern, experimental narratives seek to deny the reading closure - of the expected closure. Some narratives look ahead to a sequel.
Techniques used to draw the narrative together. May be achieved through events, characters or language. Related to the structure of the novel.
The typical features and characteristics of a particular text type or genre.
Literally the 'unknotting', in which events are explained. A particularly important feature in genres such as the detective novel.
Constructed conversation in written texts.
Some texts address the reader directly. This can have the effect of drawing us into the text, making us feel we know the narrator and are being told the story personally. It can also have the effect of positioning the reader alongside the narrator and his or her values - a position we may want to question or challenge.
Speech that is given in the words of the speaker, rather than reported indirectly in the narrative voice, for example: 'I'm sleepy,' she said.
Dominant or preferred reading
This is the reading which seems most obvious - it is the commonsense reading encouraged by the text. It may rely on the real reader adopting a particular position (for example, chick lit novels construct a reader who is young, female and looking for love). As readers we may decide to resist or challenge this dominant reading and the values it assumes.
Stories contained within the main narrative. These could include a story told orally by a character, a diary or a letter, a complete narrative.
Reminds the reader that what they are reading is fiction, dispelling any illusion that the characters are real people etc.
A novel written in letters.
Any language that goes beyond the literal, including simile, metaphor, symbol...
Reference to an event that happened at an earlier point in the story.
The character from whose point of view the action is seen.
Flat characters play a minor role in the narrative, are less developed (perhaps stereotyped or cliched, behaving in predictable ways). They may be used by the writer to fulfill a particular function, for example illustrate a theme or move the plot forward.
Anticipating events yet to occur. This may be done explicitly where that narrator suggests 'if only they'd known' for example, or may be very subtle through word choices, imagery and so on.
Frame story / framing devices
Surrounds and accounts for the main narrative, for example the finding of a narrative or how the narrator came to learn the story.
Free direct speech
Speech given in the words of the character but without any attributing speech tags (such as 'he said' or 'she wept'), for example:
- Good day
-Good day to you too
Free indirect style
Third person narration in which a character's thoughts and feelings seem to be directly expressed, freely taking on the views and often the language of that character. Narratives often slide between conventional third person narration and this style, moving from a more detached voice to one that is more intimately connected to one character or another.
Kind or type of literary text. Used to both refer to overarching genres such as poem, novel, drama and to sub-genres, such as detective story, romance, thriller.
Implied reader / listener
The implied reader is related to but is not the same as the real reader of a text. The implied reader is constructed or anticipated by the text to respond in a particular way, for example, to agree that only in marriage are women fulfilled. The real reader is encouraged to adopt this role but may choose to question or challenge it.
Use of a word, phrase or paragraph turned from its usual meaning to a contradictory or opposing one, usually for satiric effect.
A narrator who doesn't seem to understand as much about what's happening as the reader.
First person, as though the narrator is verbalising their thoughts as they occur.
A narrator, who is telling the story in the third person, intervenes in the narrative, with a comment in the first person.
Vocabulary or word choices. The narrative voice may use one kind of lexis while characters may use another (both in dialogue and in interior monologue).
Metanarrative / experimental approaches
A metanarrative draws attention to its fictional and constructed status, preventing the reader from suspending disbelief and entering the fictional world.
A recurring word, phrase, image, object or idea running throughout the text. Motifs, each of which stands for a complex range of feelings, associations and values, are part of the structure of the novel, providing continuity and coherence.
A substantial stretch of scripted speech by a single speaker.
More than one narrative voice used in a single text. It can be first or third person or a mixture of the two.
The way in which a series of events - the story - is mediated and told (which may not be in the same order as the events took place).
Things that are left out of the narrative. These gaps may be filled by the reader.
The voice in which the narrative is told. May be first or third person.
The narrator is a creation of the author used to tell the story. The narrator may directly address the reader; be a participant in the story; be a detached observer; be 'transparent', appearing to speak with the voice of the author.
A true story told using the techniques associated with fictional narratives. A popular approach to biography, popular science and so on.
A narrator who is assumed to know everything connected with the story narrated.
Narratives in a single text separated by time. The stories may be linked by a place, a character or an object. Michael Cunningham's 'The Hours' is made up of three parallel narratives, while David Mitchell's 'Cloud Atlas' includes six separate narrative strands. Part of the reading pleasure is in discovering how the parallel narratives relate to, or illuminate, each other.
Patterns and repetition
Anything from a repeated word or image to a repeated event, used to draw attention to an aspect of the narrative and give it additional significance.
The story told so that cause and effect is clear - the causal chain that connects characters and events.
The special qualities of the writer's prose, such as sentence length, choice of lexis, characteristic sentence structures.
The main character. A less value-laden term than 'hero'.
A narrative which attempts to create a realistic world, operating by the same rules as the reader's world. Although just as constructed as an experimental novel, a realist novel does not draw attention to its fictional status.
Speech that is incorporated into the narrative voice and reported indirectly. For example: She said that she was feeling sleepy. (also called 'indirect speech.)
A resistant reading refuses or challenges the dominant reading assumed by the text. To read in a resistant way, the reader will often be looking at issues of class, race, gender, exploring which characters are marginalised, what assumptions the text makes and the values the reader is expected to share in order to make sense of the text.
Rites of passage novel
Sometimes called a 'bildungsroman' - a novel about growing up. 'Jane Eyre', 'The Catcher in the Rye' and 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' might all be read as rites of passage novels.
'Round' characters are those who are most significant to the narrative and have therefore been developed most fully by the writer, showing the potential to change or behave unpredictably. Round characters often feel more 'believable' to the reader.
Second person address
A narrative voice that directly addresses the reader as 'you'. It's rare for a whole text to do this, as it's very hard to maintain.
Where the events of the narrative take place. May be imbued with additional symbolic significance (which may be generic - the haunted house, for example).
The events in the order in which they occurred, without any indication of cause or effect.
Stream of consciousness
A narrative style that imitates the qualities of thoughts and feelings, making the reader feel as if they're inside someone's head. The grammar and structure suggest the random and fragmentary nature of thought. In the third person it's an extreme version of free indirect style. In the first person it's an extreme version of interior monologue.
Structure (e.g. linear, episodic, circular, parallel)
The overall shape of the novel and the way the author has put together the story he or she is telling. Involves decisions about openings and endings: the division of story into chapters or sections, handling of time, use of frame stories.
An image or object that stands for a bigger abstract idea, belief or feeling. Unlike a motif, a symbol can be used on a single occasion and never mentioned again.
Most narratives are told in the past tense, although writers may make use of present and future tense to create particular effects.
An idea, concept or issue - it is what we, as readers, interpret the story as being about. One of the ways in which the novelist might explore and draw attention to a theme is through the use of a recurring image or motif.
Third person narrator
A narrator who is assumed to know everything connected with the story narrated. Refers to the characters as 'he' or 'she'. Often popularly assumed to be the author.
A narrator who cannot be trusted to give a version of events that is to be believed, or is perhaps self-deceiving.