• Narrative Form Definition

  • Types of Narrative

  • Examples of Narrative Forms

  • The Impact of Narrative Form

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Narrative Form: What Is It & Examples

Narrative is the portrayal of an occurrence or sequence of occurrences, fundamentally recounting a tale. The tale doesn't have to be fabricated; it could be a magazine article or short story. Various forms of narrative exist, different methods of narrating a story. But what exactly is narrative form? Continue reading to discover!

Narrative Form Definition

Narrative form is how a writer or speaker chooses to tell their story.

Narrative is a description of a series of events that are connected. These form a story.

Narrative form is the combination of techniques used to tell a story and how it is presented.

Examining narrative form involves analyzing how a story is structured. Stories can be structured in various ways, such as altering the timeline or the sequence of events. The selection of narration style and the arrangement of structure have a significant impact on readers' enjoyment of a story.

Here we will look at the different ways narrative form is used to suit the story told.

Narrative Form: Narration

In a story, one of the initial aspects we might observe is its narration, which can provide readers with insight into its perspective. Narration in storytelling can be categorized into three types: first person, second person, and third person.

The choice of narrative form often dictates the narration employed by a writer. A narrative is typically presented in the first person, whereas an article or book is typically written in the third person. Let's examine these three types of narration.


First-person narration involves the story's narrator being a part of the narrative, using pronouns like 'I' or 'we' to share their perspective with the reader. This style is commonly seen in memoirs, autobiographies, novels, and short stories, enabling writers to selectively reveal information to the audience.

Charlotte Bronte's (1847) is a that uses first-person narration.


Second person narration is infrequently used. Here, the narrator directly addresses the reader, engaging them in the story's events by referring to them as 'you'. This narrative form is uncommon in literature.

Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City (1984) is a that uses second-person narration.


The third-person narrator maintains a distance from the events in a narrative, employing the pronouns 'he', 'she', and 'they'. There exist two forms of third-person narration: omniscient and limited.

In third-person omniscient, the narrator possesses knowledge of each character's thoughts, emotions, and deeds, enabling writers to explore the interactions among various characters.

Third-person limited narration keeps the focus on one character, revealing their thoughts and feelings while keeping the thoughts of secondary characters hidden from the audience.

Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace (1869) exemplifies third-person omniscient narration.

The novel Cloud Atlas (2004) employs third-person limited narration.

Types of Narrative

There are four main types of narrative, each presenting the story in a different way. Let's explore these types:

1. Linear Narrative

In a linear narrative, the events of the story are presented in chronological order. This gives the reader a sense of the story unfolding in real time. An example of a linear narrative is Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice."

2. Non-linear Narrative

A non-linear narrative presents the events of the story out of order, using techniques like flashback or flash-forward. This can add mystery and intrigue to the story. An example of a non-linear narrative is Homer's "The Odyssey."

3. Viewpoint Narrative

A viewpoint narrative offers the subjective perspective of one or more characters. This can be told in first person, where we see the protagonist's thoughts, or in third person, where multiple characters' perspectives are presented. An example of a viewpoint narrative is Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita."

4. Quest Narrative

J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" exemplifies a quest narrative as it portrays a character's quest to accomplish a shared objective while encountering challenges.

Examples of Narrative Forms

There are many forms of narrative, but here are a few common examples:


An allegory tells a story to symbolize a deeper idea, often without explicitly stating it. John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress" and George Orwell's "Animal Farm" are examples of allegorical narratives.


A memoir is a form of biography based on the author's personal experiences. It differs from autobiography in that it focuses on a specific event or period in the author's life. Edmund Ludlow's memoirs of the English Civil War and Robert Graves' "Goodbye To All That" are examples of memoirs.


Folklore, also known as oral tradition, encompasses stories that have been passed down through generations by word of mouth. It is considered the oldest form of literature, originating from preliterate cultures. Folklore includes a wide range of storytelling, from prose and song to myth and poetry. Nearly every culture has its own rich history of folklore, with tales like 'Jack and the Beanstalk' being well-known examples.

Short Fiction

Short fiction refers to any narrative that is shorter than a novel. It gained popularity in the 19th century, providing writers with a platform to explore ideas that may not be feasible in longer works. Renowned authors such as John Cheever and H.H Munro (Saki) have excelled in the realm of short fiction.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981) by Raymond Carver and Dubliners (1914) by James Joyce are notable collections of short stories.

Other Notable Forms of Narrative

  • Novels
  • Flash fiction
  • Autobiography
  • Epic poetry
  • Essay
  • Play

The Impact of Narrative Form

The way in which a writer chooses to structure their story significantly influences our engagement with it. Narrative form can shape our emotional responses, allowing us to empathize with characters we might not typically connect with or be repelled by seemingly ordinary individuals. Whether through screenplays, biographies, novels, or epic poetry, there is a narrative form to cater to every preference, ensuring that storytelling remains a timeless art form.

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