Narrator: Wikis

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A narrator is, within any story (literary work, movie, play, verbal account, etc.), the person who conveys the story to the audience. When the narrator is also a character within the story, he or she is sometimes known as the viewpoint character. The narrator (or the archaic female equivalent, narratress)[1] is one of three entities responsible for story-telling of any kind. The others are the author and the audience; the latter called the "reader" when referring specifically to literature.

The author and the audience both inhabit the real world. It is the author's function to create the universe, people, and events within the story. It is the audience's function to understand and interpret the story. The narrator exists within the world of the story (and only there—although in non-fiction the narrator and the author can share the same persona, since the real world and the world of the story may be the same) and present it in a way the audience can comprehend.

A narrator may tell the story from his own point of view (as a fictive entity) or from the point of view of one of the characters in the story. The act or process of telling the particulars of a story is referred to as narration. Along with exposition, argumentation, and description, narration (broadly defined) is one of four rhetorical modes of discourse. More narrowly defined, narration is the fiction-writing mode whereby the narrator communicates directly to the reader.

The concept of the unreliable narrator (as opposed to "author") became more important with the rise of the novel in the 18th century. Until the late 1800s, literary criticism as an academic exercise dealt solely with poetry (including epic poems like the Iliad and Paradise Lost, and poetic drama like Shakespeare). Most poems did not have a narrator distinct from the author. But novels, with their immersive fictional worlds, created a problem, especially when the narrator's views differed significantly from that of the author.

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Types of narrators

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Narrative modes

A writer's choice of narrator is crucial for the way a work of fiction is perceived by the reader. All narrators present their story from one of the following perspectives (called narrative modes): first-person, or third-person limited or omniscient. Generally, a first-person narrator brings greater focus on the feelings, opinions, and perceptions of a particular character in a story, and on how the character views the world and the views of other characters. If the writer's intention is to get inside the world of a character, then it is a good choice, although a third-person limited narrator is an alternative that does not require the writer to reveal all that a first-person character would know. By contrast, a third-person omniscient narrator gives a panoramic view of the world of the story, looking into many characters and into the broader background of a story. A third-person omniscient narrator can tell feelings of every character. For stories in which the context and the views of many characters are important, a third-person narrator is a better choice. However, a third-person narrator does not need to be an omnipresent guide, but instead may merely be the protagonist referring to himself in the third person (also known as third person limited narrator)

Multiple narrators

A writer may choose to let several narrators tell the story from different points of view. Then it is up to the reader to decide which narrator seems most reliable for each part of the story. See for instance the works of Louise Erdrich. William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is a prime example of the use of multiple narrators. Faulkner employs stream of consciousness by narrating the story from the first person view of multiple characters. Each chapter is devoted to the voice of a single character after whom it is titled. Some writers employ an alternate form of this style, in which multiple characters narrate the story at once, or at least a single character narrates the actions of a group of characters while never referring to a "me", and only to a "we" of the group. The technique of narrating from the point of view of a group as opposed to an individual can create a dissociative effect of observation, as if a Greek chorus, or personalize the story further by providing the reader with the knowledge and experience of a party involved in the story, without the unrelatable specifics of an individual personality or character. Examples of first-person plural narration include Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted and Jeffrey Eugenides's The Virgin Suicides.

Narration as a fiction-writing mode

As do so many words in the English language, narration has more than one meaning. In its broadest context, narration encompasses all written fiction. More narrowly, narration is the fiction-writing mode whereby the narrator communicates directly to the reader.

Along with exposition, argumentation, and description, narration (broadly defined) is one of four rhetorical modes of discourse. In the context of rhetorical modes, the purpose of narration is to tell a story or to narrate an event or series of events. Narrative may exist in a variety of forms: biographies, anecdotes, short stories, novels. In this context, all written fiction may be viewed as narration.

Narrowly defined, narration is the fiction-writing mode whereby the narrator is communicating directly to the reader. But if the broad definition of narration includes all written fiction, and the narrow definition is limited merely to that which is directly communicated to the reader, then what comprises the rest of written fiction? The remainder of written fiction would be in the form of any of the other fiction-writing modes. Narration, as a fiction-writing mode, is a matter for discussion among fiction writers and writing coaches. [1]

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