Narrative Theories A media student’s guide to story tellingJ
Stories have been toldsince we could speak or even paint you don’t have to have watched TV to know about narrative - storylines
They Might be Giants Vladimir Propp It is Propp that tells you that there are only eightcharacter roles (a pity if you think you’ve got an originalone) and he bases his theories on the age-old stories of ordinary folk.The characters are:
Obviously TV cop dramas and Hollywood thrillers done necessarilyhave fairy princess, heroes and villainsor do they? Start looking - don’t be too literal!
The Balancing Act Tzvetan Todorov Todorov states that stories start with an equilibrium. Thestory starts with an assumption about the balance of action within the story and the progress of the story is its disruption
The story though, is not just about the way things are when they startbut it is also about the common ground that underlines that equilibrium.That is the cultural assumptions we all agree - for instance that “crime does not pay”.Possibly the equilibrium is informed by the ”backstory”, in other wordsthe story about the main characters that is never told. Their history - how they got to be where they were at the start. What and ho made them the characters they are in the story.
Breaking the Codes Roland Barthes Roland Barthes has narrowed the action down to ﬁve basic codes - even moredepressing if you thought you had a great original storyline.
Stories, in this mode are more like puzzles,perhaps a puzzle with some missing pieces, andwhat keeps you interested is the bits that you ﬁll in yourself. action or proairetic the enigma or hermeneutic code the semantic code the symbolic code the cultural code
...and that means...action or proairetic the symbolic code this is the way in which tension is this is a bit the same as the above, built and the audience is kept but it uses symbolic knowledge such guessing as religious understandingthe enigma or hermeneutic code the cultural code this is the way in which the story this is the cultural assumptions that avoids telling the truth, or revealing we tend not challenge - murder is all the facts in order to drop clues wrong and create mysterythe semantic code this refers to the connotations that the story suggests - the connotations of noir for example
Zeroes and Ones: Binary Claude Levi-Strauss OR - how Levi-Strauss (who died aged 100) suggested that stories are a series of binary opposites. Conﬂict, it is said, is the essence (the inevitability of the plot and all of drama. Without the odd the elements in it) argument (frank exchange of In essence you start with your views) you cant have drama. paradigmatic elements and then Whilst some may query this those that you are going to follow Levi-Strauss suggests that through the story are chosen. These stories are largely made up of elements have opposites and the plot binary oppositions: (syntagmatic part) details the girl boy effects of that opposition. good evilParadigm - a set of objects or concepts life deathSyntagm - an element which follows money poverty another in a particular sequence to choose or not
AcknowledgementsPic 1: Fairy Tale CC Flickr Kjirstinhttp:/ /www.ﬂickr.com/photos/kjirstinb/260328469/Pic 2: Tightrope Walker CC Flickr geoftherefhttp://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/geoftheref/2253511823/Pic 3: CC Judith GunnPic 4: CC Judith GunnPic 4: Morgueﬁle http://mrg.bz/Zyfk7E