One of the biggest names in narrative theory is Tzvetan Todorov. He
proposed the theory of narrative equilibrium.
Stage One - A point of stable equilibrium, where everything
is satisfied, calm and normal. The beginning of the story.
Stage Two - The stability is disrupted by some kind of force, which
creates a state of disequilibrium.
Stage Three - Recognition that the disequilibrium/disruption has taken
Stage Four - It is only possible to re-create or restore the equilibrium
through action directed against the disruption.
Stage Five - Restoration of a new state of equilibrium. The
consequences of the reaction is to change the world of the narrative
and/or the characters so that the final state of equilibrium in not the
same as the initial state.
According to Pam Cook(1985), the standard
Hollywood narrative structure should have:
- Linearity of cause and effect within an overall
trajectory of enigma resolution.
- A high degree of narrative closure. (Audiences
like narrative closure!)
- A fictional world that
contains verisimilitude especially governed by
spatial and temporal coherence.
According to Kate Domaille(2001) every story
ever told can be fitted into one of eight
narrative types. Each of these narrative types
has a source, an original story upon which the
others are based. The eight types are as follows:
1. Achilles: The fatal flaw that leads to the
destruction of the previously flawless or
almost flawless person for
example, Superman, Fatal Attraction ect.
2. Candide: The indomitable hero cannot be
put down, for example, Indiana Jones, James
Bond, Rocky ect.
3. Cinderella: The dream comes true, and has a
happy ending, for example, Pretty Women.
4. Circe: The Chase. This is about hero versus
villain, good against bad ect. For example
5. Faust: This narrative story is more about 'selling your
soul to the devil' and becoming better off but
will ultimately fail and your soul will belong to the
devil. For example, Devil’s Advocate, The Devil Inside ect.
6. Orpheus: In this narrative, something personal or loved
becomes lost or taken and therefore the narrative follows
the journey in order to retrieve what has been lost. An
example would be Taken or The Sixth Sense.
7. Romeo and Juliet: The love story. A romance between
two characters. An good example is Titanic and How To
Lose a Guy in Ten Days.
8. Tristan and Iseult: Yet again more often seen in
romantic genres, a love triangle. When a character
loves another however they are already spoken for or a
third party becomes involved. For example, The Hunger
Games or The Vow or even Bridget Jones Diary.
The Russian theorist Vladimir Propp studied the
narrative structure of Russian Folk Tales. Propp
concluded that regardless of the individual
differences in terms of plot, characters and
settings, such narratives would share common
He also concluded that all the characters could be
resolved into only seven character types in the 100
tales he analysed(with Lord of the Rings examples):
The Hero – The victim or seeker hero, reacts to the donor and
then weds the princess for example, Aragorn, Frodo and Sam.
The Donor – Prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical
object, for example, Galadriel.
The Villain – Struggles against the hero. For example, Sauron or
The Dispatcher - This character makes the lack known and that
there is something wrong and therefore sends the hero off. For
False Hero - This character takes credit for all the work the real
hero has done and therefore tries to marry the princess. For
The Helper - The character that assists the hero throughout his
journey. For example, Sam, Legolas, Boromir, Aragorn, Gimli.
The Princess and Her Father - This character gives the task to the
hero and identifies the false hero. The princess often marries the
hero and is sought for throughout the narrative. Propp noted that
functionally, the princess and father cannot always be clearly
distinguished. In Lord of the rings, this would be Arwen (Aragorn’s
princess) and Elrond.
Applying Propp’s character types - In
The hero: Katie – Our main character
The donor: The counsellor
The villain: The bullies/her father
The dispatcher: N/A
False hero: Girls in her class
The helper: Her blog – helps release her
• The princess: Charlotte
• Joseph Campbell created the influential work 'The Hero
with a Thousand Faces' and with this he developed the idea
of 'Universal Hero Monomyth.'
This idea suggests there is an underlying structure of
iconography, themes, concepts and narrative structure that
is common to the religions, myths and legends of almost
every culture in the world. Great success such as George
Lucas was influenced by this in order to create 'Star Wars'
as in conforms to the Universal Hero Monomyth is every
Ordinary World – The ordered world that the hero will choose (or be forced) to abandon.
Call To Adventure – A problem or challenge arises.
Refusal Of The Call – Fear or reluctance may strike the hero.
Meeting With The Mentor – The mentor is a key character.
Crossing The First Threshold – The hero commits to the adventure.
Test, Allies, Enemies – The hero must learn the rules that will govern his quest.
Approach To The Innermost Cave – The most dangerous confrontation yet, perhaps the location of
the treasure, or the object of the quest.
Ordeal – The hero must face his fear or mortal enemy who will seem more powerful. Mental or
physical torture may occur.
Reward (Seizing The Sword) – The hero can celebrate the victory.
The Road Back – Vengeful forces controlled by the villain are unleashed.
Resurrection – Perhaps a final confrontation with death.
Return With The Elixir – Return to the ordinary world with some wisdom, knowledge or something
else gained from the adventure.
Levi-Strauss(1958) his ideas about narrative amount to the
fact that he believed all stories operated to certain clear
Binary Opposites. For example, good vs. evil, rich vs. poor.
In our production, our binary opposites are good vs evil, abuse
Levi-Strauss also looked deeper into the way that narratives
were ultimately always systematic oppositions. The order of
events can be called the syntagmatic structure of a
narrative, but Levi-Strauss was more concerned with the
deeper of paradigmatic arrangement of themes. The is a
choice of elements (paradigams) and they are arranged/dealt
with in a particular way (syntagms).