Narration is to tell an event or some events that have taken place, are taking place or will take place in the sequence of time. Narration fixes the actions that occur in a succession of time, which are related to some characters in a specific setting and that will have a specific ending.
The narrator evokes some events, either because he has experienced them in reality or because without being a witness, he narrates the events as if he had been present as a spectator.
Literary narration is a succession of fictitious events (even if they are based on real facts). Narration tells us with words the actions that the characters make.
It is important to establish the difference between the author and the narrator to avoid any kind of confusion, as they are not the same person:
- The writer, who is out of the text, chooses the most adequate narrative point of view.
- On the other hand the narrator is the voice that tells us the events, the one who knows the events, giving his own comments or not, but he is always behind the story.
Narration is an art and in being so, it depends on given formal principles and a given technique, even if sometimes people say that narration is an aptitude you have or not. Writing about some events that take place in a given time and space is a difficult task because we have to refer simultaneously to why these events happen and the way in which they are joined one with another.
On the one hand, narration is closely related to the first linguistic expressions of the human being. Man begins to tell what has happened. Later on, he will add some specific details on people, objects, settings etc. that is to say, he will describe the components of narration. This second step is the most difficult one.
On the other hand, the reporting of events that have taken place, are soon transformed into literary material, whose most common expression is the epic poem and the epic narration. From these primitive literary genres, we can see that verse is very adequate to tell what has happened.
Features in narrative texts:
- Verisimilitude: It is recommended to have as the base of narration, events that have been lived or experienced directly. Then we can choose a great amount of new situations, but always when characters and places have a fixed concretion and adequate to the events that are being told.
However, we don’t have to mix verisimilitude with an exact copy of reality as a photograph. Verisimilitude means that events seem real even if they are not.
- The narrative point of view: A good narration has to maintain the interest and curiosity to the reader, but to achieve this aim is not very easy.
Sometimes the narrated events are not very important because what is really important is the personal point of view, which is capable of giving a different human dimension to the particular.
The narrator can attract the reader´s attention by means of the nature of action, of characters or both, without leaving apart the setting where the action takes place. All these aspects have to be structured taking into account the pint of view of the narrator.
Main elements in narration:
Narration makes reference to all literary genres that are based on the report of a story, so we include epic, novels and tales.
The elements that form the essence of narration are:
- The action, that is, the events that take place
- The characters, that is, the people who make or experience the events.
- The setting, that is, the place where the action takes place.
- The action. In every narration it is essential that something happens and what happens is the action. The action is constituted by the events that take place and they can be ordered in a progressive form, that is, following the chronological order as they are taking place till reaching the ending.
This is the classical disposition and it has the following steps:
ü Presentation of the action, characters and setting.
ü The knot or development of the events.
ü The ending or denouement of the situation.
But apart from this way of organising the events, that is to say, the casual or chronological way, we can break this order and present at the beginning the events that should go after in narration and then narrate the events that had taken place at the beginning. This procedure is called “in medias res” and it is used to attract the reader´s attention because he will be very interested in what has happened before.
We can also present the action “in extremis res”, that is, to begin with the end and then tell what has happened before.
- The characters. Narration consists of telling some events that are made or experienced by some characters. The creation of the characters requires a great ability on the part of the narrator because he has to present them to us as human beings that are capable of feeling and of making feel, that is to say, he has to give them human characteristics.
The shape of characters has to be formed by both physical and psychological features. The reader will discover little by little different aspects of the characters as narration goes on, f.i. by means of his way of behaving according to the events or by means of what the other characters tell us about them.
- The setting. Another important element of narration is the place where the action takes place and where characters act. The setting helps decisively to get verisimilitude, which is so important in narration because it creates authenticity. The characters can be shaped by the setting where they develop their lives, so we can se that the setting has a dynamic character. There are some narrations where the setting is involved in such a way in the action, that it makes concurrence to the characters. In this case it stops from being just the scenery where the action takes place.
The author of a narrative text can make use of different techniques to create narration. That is what we call the narrative point of view, that is, the person who “sees” and through which the reader “sees”.
- The third person narrator: We can see it in different ways:
ü The omniscient narrator is the one who has a complete knowledge of what is taking place. He knows the exterior events and the most personal feelings of the characters.
ü Some aspects of the events can be omitted, being the narrator a mere observer of the action, that is what we call “limited scope”.
ü The narrator can be hidden in the voice of a character and he plays the role of witness narrator. The narrator tells us in 3rd person what happens to another character or characters of narration.
ü The multiple narrative approach where the same action is narrated from different characters´ points of view.
- The first person narrator: By means of the first person narrator, the presence of the narrator is revealed in narration when the main character and the narrator are identified in the same person. It is used when the narrator tells us his own experiences and testimonies. It is an autobiography either real or invented. Sometimes the voice of the I/author cab be confused with the voice of the I/main character.
The advantage of this technique is that it enhances the interest towards narration because it seems something that has been experienced personally.
- The second person narrator: This kind of narration is less frequently used than the previous ones. It is usual by combined with them and we do not find it through a complete book. With the use of the 2nd person narrator, the narrator seeks to analyse the characters´ thoughts, even if this means restricting the information that is conveyed to the reader because the narrator always knows much more than the main character.
- The dynamic narrator: there are several passages in long narration that accelerate the temporal rhythm in narration. The action is intensified, what we get by means of accumulation of verbal forms. There is the intention to approximate the time of what has happened to the time it elapses until the narrator tells us the story.
Linguistic procedures used in narration:
- Verbal forms: As the narration shows us actions and events, there is a predominance of verbs over other kind of categories. We have to pay special attention to the use of the verbal forms because we have to yuxtapose or subordinate different periods of time.
The verbal form most used is the simple past but sometimes we can also find the present as the historical present to approach the past to the present of the reader.
- Syntactic structures: The syntactic structures of a narrative text are due to the meaning of process and action of all narration. We can observe a clear tendency of using predication, which is the most adequate structure to express progression and movement, coordination, yuxtaposition and subordination. The complexity of narration also favours the use of temporal subordination.
- Stylistic devices: The narrative text does not use a very high number of literary devices. The most used ones are he metaphore, irony, antithesis and paradoxe. Then we have syntactic devices such as parallelism and repetition.
Three steps in the narrative text:
- The invention of materials which are going to be narrated, which must be based on events that have been lived or experienced directly and then we can add new situations to it. That is verisimilitude, events have to seem real even if they are not.
- The disposition of materials in a concrete order, which refers to the narrative point of view chosen by the author.
- The elocution or expression of the text with reference to action, characters and setting in presentation, knot and ending of narration with all the stylistic devices used in it.