narrative. Narrative is a recounted tale or story, whether of fictional or non-fictional material. In the formal study of narrative (termed 'narratology'), a distinction is regularly made between 'story,' used to refer to a sequence of events, and the 'narration' of these events. Narration is understood as the organizing of the linear sequence of events into a structured narrative and as ascribing a cause or motivation to it. Thus a simple story sequence might be, 'Jack woke up, then he went to work, then he met Jill'. Introducing a plot would produce, 'After work, Jack met Jill as planned' and constructing a narrative, 'I noticed Jack always met Jill after work'. As this suggests, narrative requires two things: an actual or implied narrator who brings a point of view, style or tone to the narration, and an audience of readers or spectators depending on the medium of narration.
A recent tendency suggests that all human activity and communication can be viewed as narrative or as governed by it. In extreme form this can imply that all accounts of the world are equally fictional. Distinctions are possible and perhaps necessaryhowever, between 'factual' and 'fictional' narratives and between kinds of each mode. Thus we can distinguish between the discourses which produce the narratives of science, economics, law, politics, advertising or journalism and distinguish these from the discourses of film, literature and drama. Often of course these narrative forms in turn call for further internal distinctions.
The academic analysis of narrative has derived from related traditions in formalism (Propp 1968) and structuralism (from e.g. Greimas, Todorov, Genette, Barthes). Propp's attempt to derive a universal system or grammar of narrative from the repeated basic structures of folk tales influenced the later approach in structuralist narratology and this accordingly combines abstract, universalizing description and close technical analysis. One of the most sophisticated and influential models in this tradition has been proposed by Gerard Genette (1980, 1982). Genette distinguishes between histoire, or 'story', the chronology of events as they occur; recit, the order of events in a narrative; and 'narration', the act of story telling or of 'enunciation'. A further common term associated with the middle level of recit is 'diegesis'. This denotes the fictional content of a narrative world: all that is given as the reality of a story. It includes dialogue, setting, and in the case of film and visual narratives, sound and mise-en-scene (the staging of a shot by means of setting, costume lighting and movement within the frame). Some features of a narrative will also be 'extra-' or 'non-diegetic'. A film sound-track, for example, which does not belong to the internal world of the story as opposed to a song sung by one of the characters will be 'extra-diegetic'; a direct address to camera or, in written fiction a direct authorial intervention will be 'non-diegetic'. In addition, a voice-over or the internal monologue of a character is described as 'intra-diegetic'.
This vocabulary, along with the language of codes, subtexts, and narrative functions is in quite common use and has been absorbed into the discussion of all kinds of written narratives, film and media texts. The study of still or single images is also understood as being implicated in narrative. Thus a news photograph may represent a key moment in the changing course of history, a family snapshot belongs to a changing personal history and an advertising image may depict the moment of delight in a before and after sequence.
Although the study of narrative and the use of a formalist and structuralist vocabulary are widespread, later developments in poststructuralism have suggested that the structuralist aim to produce a scientific, universal grammar of narrative is deluded and that the approach is also limited in its relative indifference to the reader or spectator and the processes of reading and reception. [from: Brooker, 1999]