The Narrative Structure Essay, Research Paper
Narrative structure is simply how a narrative is put together, so we may analyze the narrative. In other words it is the way the story unfolds. In order to arrest readers attention fully, the story should be worth telling. It must be extraordinary. It may involve death or danger, something amusing, the unexpected or the uncommon. The narrator must show that what he is relating is worth one s time to hear. It all begins with a main idea. It tells us what the story is going to be about. He will pick the style according to his idea, either linear or non-linear and a genre ( high concept hook ), which he must stay with through out the story to prevent it from flying all over the place. The narrator then will throw main characters, purposeful direction, right pace, etc into the story. Buried beneath most great films are skeletons. Strip away a film’s characters, location and story and underneath you will find the bare bones of structure. This is the framework on which the film is built. According to Syd Field, author of ‘Screenplay – The Foundations of Screenwriting , ‘Structure is what holds the story in place.
2. Typical elements in a narrative structure
Reverse engineering; take something apart, see how it works and copy it. This is exactly what Syd Field did. What did all great scripts have in common? What made them work, where others failed? The answer is ‘great structure’. I am going to go in details what some of these elements are.
Abstract is a clause that summarizes the whole story. It is usually at the beginning of the story and is optional. Some of the writers choose to reveal the end in the beginning. In short it is an introductory summary.
Orientation establishes the time, place, setting and opening cast. It sets a distance between the narrator and the narrative. Orientation generally placed first and sets the whole mood for the story to come. It may, however, be added to as need by the narrative. For example, a main character may be introduced later in the narrative and could be evaluative in nature.
c) Complicating action
Complicating action is the sequence of what happened. It may start with a transitional marker. It may be composed of episodes and scenes. The transitions are often marked by circumstantial clauses. Circumstantial clause is a statement of the particular circumstances under which the action of the main clause takes place. The transitions could also be marked by a shift in the narrator s point of view and/or from an introduction of a new main character.
Evaluation indicates the point of the narration and may be located throughout the narrative. It is done by either external or embedded . If the narrator is outside the narrative, it is called external and if the characters register the evaluation in either words or actions, it is called embedded . It focuses attention on itself by suspending the action of the story. Here are some of the examples:
Intensifiers Repetition, quantifiers (Use of all or the whole ), ritual utterances and in case of live speech, use of gestures and distorting of certain words.
Comparators It tells us what did not or cannot happen and it stands in contrast to what did happen. It also considers unrealized possibilities and often strengthened by placement next to what did happen.
Correlatives It is contrast to comparators and brings together events that happened and conjoins them.
Explications It gives the reasons or motivation for certain actions. For example the words such as while , though , since , because , etc.
e) Result or Resolution
The story is coming towards the end and the readers need to know what happened. The result or resolution tells what finally happened. This, however, indicates the end of the action but may not be the end of discourse.
It signals to the readers that the narrative has come to an end. It does that by cutting off the flow of the narrative and lets the audience know that the story is finished. There are many different methods of doing this. You could project into the future or return to the time of the audience or go to a past time known to the audience or come back to the present time of the writing basically They lived happily ever after! There may also be more that one of these methods.
The treatment tells the full story, but not yet in fully crystallized scenes. Just as the motion picture occupies an intermediate area between the novel and stage play, the treatment may be considered a narrative description of the future script. (265:Vale) The treatment is an elaboration of the outline and the material is still more or less in a fluid state, which creates room for correction and further progress. Even a good idea may not develop into a good story and only after we have seen through the flesh to the bones of the dramatic body are we able to recognize whether the story can live, or if it must break down. The last thing is distribution. In order to achieve the perfect distribution, you must first contemplate the beginning of the main intention and the beginning of the difficulty, the location of the climax, and the location of the main goal with respect to the end of the story.
To explore all the possible variations of constructing a story is indeed an interesting and intriguing task. At this point utmost economy is essential; this economy has the added advantage of creating more powerful situations. The screenplay completes the task of expression in terms of scenes. The sequence of scenes should be examined with regard to variation, change and contrast. If the story has been developed carefully up to this point, the writing of the screenplay is no radical departure from the previous stages, but merely a final crystallization of the material.