Information and Characteristics

Narration (Storytelling): Structure, Elements, Types and Characteristics

Narration (Storytelling): Structure, Elements, Types and Characteristics

We explain what narration is, how it is classified and the elements it presents. Also, what are its characteristics, structure and examples.

What is narration (storytelling)?

Narration (Storytelling): Structure, Elements, Types and Characteristics
A narrative is equivalent to a story or a tale.

A narrative is a sequential succession of events or actions, carried out by real or imaginary characters, in a certain place and for a certain amount of time, told by someone in a specific way. That is, in a certain way a narrative is equivalent to a story, a story or a tale, although they are not entirely synonymous.

The narratives are inherent to the human being, and he has practiced them from the most ancient times to the present, in formal ways (as in literature ) or informal (as in everyday speech ). The religious, national, family imaginary and even personal memory have the form of narration and are transmitted as such.

The science that studies narratives is known as narratology.

See also: Narrative text

Origin of the narrative (storytelling)

Origin of the narrative (storytelling)
Initially, the stories were loaded with mythical and religious content.

The narrative is as old as humanity itself . We suppose that the first stories arose in the heat of the bonfires, when the primitive tribe gathered to eat and listen to the stories of the hunt, or the origin myths told by the old sages.

Initially, the stories were loaded with mythical and religious content . They were founding stories that tried to answer the great questions of humanity: what are we doing here? Where we go? Where we come from?

Later, the stories acquired an epic-marvelous content . They served to explain and shape the sense of belonging of nations, considering them descendants of mythical heroes and great actions, or the result of tremendous wars that it is not known if they actually occurred.

Types of narration

The narratives can be of different types, depending on their content and their intentions. A possible classification is the following:

  • Oral narration: That which is carried out through spoken language and which is marked by the individual’s mode of speech, by everyday life, etc. It is necessarily face-to-face (unless it is recorded in recording) and ephemeral, since the sound of the voice disappears.
  • Written narration: That which is annotated using some type of recognizable language and which can be read long after its writing, generally in the absence of its author. They are durable over time and for this they require a physical support. They can be, in turn:
    • Judicial narration: Those that are made for the purpose of witnessing a fact, taking an oath or attesting to something in front of a legal or juridical institution.
    • Journalistic narration: Those of non – fiction type appearing in the press and in the mass media , arranged according to the stylistic methods of literature, but without aesthetic or entertainment but informative purposes and objectives .
    • Literary narration: Those that are undertaken with an aesthetic or entertainment purpose, and that make up the content of literature. They use mechanisms and stylistic strategies that give the story strength or beauty.

Another way to classify the narratives depends on the veracity of the events reported, thus being able to speak of an objective narration or a subjective narration.

Narrative (storytelling) elements

Narrative (storytelling) elements
The characters are those involved in the story.

In any narrative, some or all of the following elements appear:

  • Storyteller: The voice and point of view from which the story is told, and which may or may not be involved in the events it narrates.
  • Characters: Those actors directly or indirectly involved in the story told, occupying different roles in it: protagonist (on whom the story focuses), antagonist (who opposes the protagonist), companion (who accompany the protagonist); and at different levels of importance: main characters (those without whom there would be no story) and secondary characters (accidental or accompanying characters).
  • Place: Every story occurs in a place, be it real or imaginary, and events can have a greater or lesser level of interaction with the setting where they occur.
  • Time: Every story involves an amount of time of the story’s total duration (narrative time), as well as an amount of time elapsed between the events it narrates (story time).
  • Plot: The content of the story itself, that is, the amount of actions that take place and that move the story towards its resolution and outcome.

Structure of a narrative (storytelling)

Structure of a narrative (storytelling)
The characters are led to one or more complex situations.

Narrating means telling a series of events in an orderly, logical and sequential way , that builds a total unity when it nears its end, and that has a sense of causality and plausibility, that is, that is credible and makes sense. In that sense, its structure traditionally involves three parts:

  • Start or presentation: Also called balance situation or initial situation, it is the starting point of the story, in which the characters are introduced to us and their situation is detailed at the beginning of the plot.
  • Medium or complication: The characters are led to one or several situations of complexity, which threatens the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of their desires, and which rethinks the initial schemes in which each character was found.
  • End or denouement: Final part in which conflicts are resolved in one way or another, for the good or bad of the characters, and they find themselves in a new balance situation.

Narrator (storyteller) types

The choice of a narrator often determines many things about a story. In principle, there are two different considerations to make regarding the narrator:

  • Narrative person: It refers to the grammatical choice of the voice of the narrator, that is, if he / she will speak in the first person (“I”, “we”) or in the third person (“he / she”, “they / they”).
  • Point of view: It refers to the point of enunciation of the narrator regarding what counts, and may be:
    • Protagonist: He narrates the events that happened to him, from his own point of view.
    • Witness: It tells the events that happened to a third party, and may or may not be part of the story.
    • Omniscient: He tells events from God’s point of view : he knows everything, even what the characters think, and he can count every angle of the plot because he knows everything.

Dialogues and descriptions

Dialogues and descriptions
Descriptions are short pauses in narration that provide details and information.

A dialogue is the moment in which the story reproduces for its readers or viewers a conversation between two or more characters , noting what each person said. Descriptions , on the other hand, are short pauses in narration that provide details and information about what characters, things, or the world around them look like.

Importance of storytelling

Narration is a fundamentally human act. It is said that together with the discovery of fire , the burial of the dead and the incest taboo , the appearance of the narrative is a fundamental element for the emergence of human civilization . In fact, from ancient times until today we continue to narrate in many areas of our life.

The literary narrative

The literary narrative
The novels are thick, slow and rambling narratives.

Literary narratives, as we have seen, are those that have artistic or aesthetic aspirations, and that are framed in the known narrative genres, which are:

  • Stories: Short to medium length stories, centered on a line of events that is narrated from beginning to end, with the fewest interruptions.
  • Micro-stories: Hyper-short stories, often smaller than a page, that seek to condense the narrative experience to its minimum extent.
  • Novels: Thick, slow and rambling narratives, in which the reader enters the universe of the characters and accompanies them during different moments of their lives, following a narrative axis in a more or less dispersed way.
  • Chronicles: Short stories, generally with a recognizable grip on reality, that not only seek to entertain through the plot, but also to provide information and witness some kind of reality.

Cinematic narration (storytelling)

Cinematic narration (storytelling)
A film presents characters, a plot, a time, a place, and a narrator.

The film , in its complexity, is also an art form that uses narratives . When we watch a film, we are presented with characters, a plot, a time, a place and a narrator (in this case it is the camera itself), to reproduce a story audiovisually.

For this reason, films with strategies similar to novels and stories can be studied . It differs in what is relevant to the film genre itself, such as the division into scenes, the types of cuts or the special effects.

Narration (storytelling) examples

The following are perfect examples of a narrative:

  • Narrated by any movie, like Gone with the Wind .
  • The count of our day that we make to our relatives when we return home.
  • The count made by a witness in a trial to which he has been summoned.
  • The journalistic chronicles that we find in the newspaper.


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