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Introduction to Narrative


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Introduction to Narrative - GCSE Media Studies

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Introduction to Narrative

  1. 1. Narrative
  2. 2. Understanding Narrative Narrative is the media term for story telling. Narrative is the way the different elements in a story are organised to make a meaningful story. Some of these elements can be facts as in documentary, or characters and actions as in a drama.
  3. 3. Narrative, or telling stories, is our way of making sense of the world about us and trying to put some meaning into that world. Because we live in a world that is organised by time - hours of the day, days of the month, the years, so story telling starts off as being linear. We tell a story as a line of events. Then she did this, then he did that, then they got married. All cultures in all countries tell stories; theorists recognise that story telling is an important art of being human.
  4. 4. When we look at narrative we see that stories throughout the media share certain characteristics. This often lnks them to genre. Different media tell stories in a variety of different ways. The key areas concerned with narrative are:
  5. 5. Narrative Structure • Narrative structure is the way the story or plot unfolds. Is the story an open or closed structure. A closed structure means the story ends satisfactorily as in most films - this is known as closure, with the girl getting the boy or the hero saving the planet. • An open ending means there is no final conclusion to the story - a television has no final ending, it just has minor endings ( a character gets killed). The audience may be asked to decide how an open story ends.
  6. 6. Multi-strand Narrative • A multi-strand narrative structure means there are several narratives running at the same time. This is very common in television and radio soaps and ongoing drama series, such as Holby City, and The Bill.
  7. 7. Breaking Bad • Breaking Bad typically has an open ended narrative, why? • However due to it also being multi- stranded, various stories will close throughout a typical episode.
  8. 8. Interactive Some texts have an interactive structure where the audience is asked to be involved in deciding the outcome of a programme. Reality television series such as Big Brother and X Factor rely on the audience’s vote to continue the series.
  9. 9. Rabbids Invasion Ubisoft announced an interactive TV show basedaround its lovable, quirky rabbit-like creaturescalled Rabbids Invasion at its E3 press conference.The show will come to Xbox One and will allowviewers to interact with the show's characters,dancing with the Rabbids and solving puzzles thatwill push the story forward. Ubisoft's trailer for the game showed children usingmotion control gestures to launch eggs at Rabbidsand scream along to virtually crack the screen invarying mini-games.
  10. 10. Other narrative structures Point of view (POV) - The narrative can take the POV of the first person as in Bridget Jones Diary where Bridget narrates the story, or the third person where a narrator uses ‘voice over’ to tell the story. In documentaries a particular point of view may be put forward by an on-screen presenter e.g. Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock. An unseen presenter can progress the narrative with commentary written to explain the story behind the pictures.
  11. 11. Enigma • A popular narrative device is the enigma. The plot constructs a puzzle that the audience is asked to solve wile the characters act out the story. An enigma may end with a surprising twist as in Fight Club (1999).
  12. 12. Narrative Theory
  13. 13. Summary Narrative is informed by character, action and location. Characters have functions such as heroes or villains, or someone who assists the hero or villain as a helper or messenger. The location of a film or television programme is an important ingredient in how the story unfolds. A horror film about Dracula is assumed it must have a castle. Narrative is delivered to the audience by expectation, suspense, tension and closure. The audience is led to expect certain things to happen which leads to tension and excitement. Expectations, suspense and tension are created by the use of Media Language such as editing and shot selection, sound and music, framing and mis-en-scene.
  14. 14. Narrative Theory There are many theoretical ways of studying the narrative. One of the most famous theorists to do with fictional narrative Tzvetan Todorov. Todorov’s theory has three main parts: 1.The text begins with a state of equilibrium - everything appears to be normal 2.There is some kind of disruption or disequilibrium - this is often a threat to the normal situation or it could just be a setback. 3.A new equilibrium is produced to end the narrative. In the best narratives there is some kind of change for the better perhaps in the main character’s behaviour or outlook on life.
  15. 15. Activity Where does the equilibrium, disequilibrium and the new equilibrium come into play in the fairytale Cinderella?
  16. 16. Theory 2: Vladimir Propp Another important theorist is Vladimir Propp (1895-1970), who discussed that fairy tales shared basic narrative elements. He proposed ways of grouping characters and their actions into eight broad character types or ‘spheres of action’ He discussed the theory that all media texts revolved around eight character types: 1.Hero - 2.Villain 3.Princess - 4.Her Father -
  17. 17. 5. Helper 6. The Donor 7. False Hero 8. The Dispatcher
  18. 18. Activity • How has Disney Pixar played with Propps narrative theory in the Shrek 2 trailer? • Can you identify all the character types in the trailer?
  19. 19. Watching an episode of New Girl and consider the following questions: 1. How is the narrative organised? 2. What is the audience’s role in relation to the narrative? 3. How are the characters used in the narrative? 4. What techniques of identification and alienation are used in the text? 5. What does the filmmaker do to engage our attention and tell the story? 6. What are the major themes of the narrative and what values and ideology are evident.
  20. 20. Extension - Activity • Todorov’s theory can be seen to be working in many films and televisions shows. Choose a drama of your choice and discuss how you can apply. Todorov’s theory of: • Equilibrium • Disequilibrium • New Equilibrium