What is a narrative structure?
A narrative structure is the way in which a storyline or a thread is put together. Each
media whether it be non‑fictional or fictional is organised according to one of the
following narrative structures, depending on the arrangement of the content or in
the case of a story, the order of which it unfolds:
An open narrative is a television programme or a soap opera. The reason for this is
because they have no sense of ending and they can go on forever. They also have a
lot more characters. The characters can also shift in and out of prominence. They
also have more than one storyline running at once. Time is also more chronological
and more with the real world. There is also different knowledge of the characters so
that the audience can get to know them.
Example of an open narrative
Hollyoaks is an example of an open
narrative. The reason for this is
because it is a soap opera with a broad
range of cast members. They also have
a lot of different storylines running at
Closed narratives are more relevent to films and cinema. There is also a small
number of central characters of which the audience knowledge is set up from. The
characters in the films are also often arranged in a 'hierarchy' of importance. The
audience are sometimes invited so that they can make 'verdicts' on the characters.
Unlike in open narratives time is compressed and not with the 'real time'. The times
and events are usually special to this particular story and it is not linked with the
outside world. The audience can usually have evidence about the characters only
from this single text. At the end of the film the key issues are resolved.
Example of a closed narrative
The Lovely Bones is an example of a
closed narrative film. The reason for
this is because all of the key issues that
were raised in the film are concluded at
the end of the film.
A single strand narrative focuses on a single central character.
Example of a single‑strand narrative
An exmple of a single strand narrative
film is Iron Man. The reason for this is
becuase it only focused on Iron Man
rather than him with the rest of the
A multi‑strand narrative is normally used by soap operas and also in long running
serial dramas. They don't use the conventional approach of beginning, middle,
ending. The reason for this is because several storylines run at the same time. While
some storylines are ending some storylines are only just beginning.
Example of a multi‑strand narrative
An example of a multi‑strand narrative
televsion show is The Wire. The reason
for this is because they talk about
different storylines running through the
programme at once. There is also no
single character is eminent for the
A series is a television or radio programme that consist of several episodes which are
broadcasted in regualar intervals.
Example of a series
An example of a very successful series
is Friends. The reason for this is
because it had 10 seasons which
consisted of 236 episodes in total.
Although it is finished there are still
some channels such as Comedy Central
which still broadcast it.
Serials are a series of programmes that rely on a contunuing plot that are in a
sequential episode by episode fashion. There are also film series which are a
collection of related films in succession.
Example of a serials
Harry Potter is one of the most popular
film serials. They began in 2001 and
then ended with the last film in 2011.
There are 8 films based on the 7 books
written by J.K. Rowling.
A linear narrative is organised in a simple sequence of:
If you put everything that happens on paper it will go in a straight line.
Example of a Linear Narrative
An example of a linear narrative film is
Bridget Jones Diary. The reason for this
is because it shows a year in the life of
Bridget Jones in a chronological order.
A non‑linear narrative doesn't proceed in a chronological order. They can either
have flashbacks or flash‑forwards.
Example of a Non‑linear narrative
An example of a non‑linear narrative
television show is Arrow The reason for
this is because they go backwards and
forwards in time.
A realist narrative is a representation of reality. The reason for this is because it
shows what happenes in everyday life.
Example of a realist narrative
This is a link to funny news mistakes
An anti‑realist programme/film is when the narrative or the plot is not easy to relate
to and is normally out of the ordinary
Example of an anti‑realist narrative
This is a link to an anti‑realist news
A particular slide catching your eye?
Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later.