Narration – Literary Texts

Narratives as own text genre

The story is probably one of the oldest genres in literature. Still, defining a narrative is not easy. On the basis of certain characteristics and properties, this text form can be outlined quite accurately. Together with some examples, this gives a very accurate picture of the nature of a narrative.

The narrative – attempt a definition

Related imageThe term is essentially described in the narrative theory (narratology) with the description of events. These can be retold events or invented events. The narrative follows a certain chronological sequence. The story can be presented verbally or in writing. The form of a narrative knows four different perspectives. In the case of the authorial narration, the narrator already knows all the events, in a neutral narrative the narrator has no relation to the events described. The first-person narrator reports on what he has experienced and the personal narrative describes the narrative from the observer’s perspective. Even the method of narration is an essential feature of the stories. Here, a distinction is made between a summarized, a retrospective and a decidedly extended (time-destroying) narrative method.

Because these features also apply to other types of text of the epic, the actual narrative is delimited from the anecdote, the novella or the short story by a few additional criteria.

Components of narratives

In narratology, a narrative often follows a fixed and chronological structure (introduction, main part, conclusion).


The introduction serves to determine the respective narrative form and the perspective. In addition, the temporal perspective (praetorium or present tense) already appears in the introduction to the narrative. Furthermore, the introduction clarifies some of the circumstances and questions that are important to understanding the narrative. Readers or listeners are informed about the location and time of the following events, about the persons involved and about possible histories.

Superlatives (powerful adjectives and verbs), but no exaggerations, are often used as stylistic devices to arouse the interest of readers and listeners. The introduction of a narrative thus serves as information and is at the same time the basis for the so-called tension arc which is yet to follow.


The main part has essentially two tasks. It contains the actual events that need to be reported. It will answer other questions that are important for understanding the following events. The main part drives the actual action and reports on current situations. Furthermore, the activities of the persons involved are explained, their behavior is clarified and the consequences of the trade are described. Even the portrayal of emotional states and ways of thinking can be found in the main part of a narrative. Flashbacks that may be necessary for understanding are often presented in the form of dreams, memories or letters. And finally, the main part also informs about the consequences that arise for all involved from the described events.

The second task of the main part is the further construction of the voltage arc. For this purpose, the basic events from the introduction are taken up and continued. The interest in the narrative is further increased, which increases the curiosity of readers and listeners (ideally) massively. At the end of the main part, the tension of the narrative has reached its climax.


The conclusion of a narrative can include two options. In most narratives, the previously constructed tension or conflict is resolved. In the case also about possible consequences of the narrated for the involved ones are reported. Even an unexpected end of the story can complete a narrative.

Alternatively, narrative theory also has narrations with an open degree. Here the reader or the listener is invited to his own interpretation of the events and their consequences.

Distinctions to other types of text

To categorize a narrative within the epic, some features may serve as an aid. Though narratives contain complex actions, a fixed timeframe, and defined characters, in comparison to a novel narratives are less extensive and less detailed. In terms of scope, the narrative thus stands between the novel and a short story. Furthermore, a narrative often describes a continuous action, while a novella mainly lives on surprises or news. The linking of persons and the main event takes precedence in the novella, while the narrative offers as comprehensible a description as possible. In addition, the novella often focuses only on essential facts, while the narrative also includes emotions, the environment, and conclusions of the plot.

Examples from the centuries

Among the first surviving narratives are the fables of Aesop. With stories like “The sun and the wind” or “The fox and the grapes” the poet already coined in 600 BC. Chr. The genre of the story. In the Middle Ages, religious themes were the focus of attention. The “Gesta Romanorum” is a collection of sagas and fairy tales from the 13th century with Christian character. Friedrich Schiller has also written numerous narratives in addition to dramas, poems and ballads. Among his best-known works of this type of text are: “A Magnanimous Act” (1782), “The Ghostseer” (1788) or (in the broader sense) the Diderot translation “Strange Example of a Female Revenge”.

In the recent past, for example, “Mr. and Dog” by Thomas Mann from 1918 should be mentioned. Important representatives of the 20th century are also Dieter Wellershoff, Botho Strauss and Patrick Süskind.

Furthermore, a distinction can be made today between different country-specific and regional narratives.