Storytelling guide

Narrative analysis is your map to crafting unforgettable journeys

Narrative analysis is like having a map in the wild terrain of storytelling. It helps you understand the lay of the land, find your path, and make your narrative journey memorable. This post aims to guide budding writers across all mediums—be it books, screenplays, comics, songs, or poetry—on how to grasp narrative analysis to enhance their storytelling adventures.

1. Unpacking Narrative Analysis

Narrative analysis is the practice of examining a narrative to understand its structural and thematic elements. It’s akin to a detective solving a mystery, piecing together clues to see the bigger picture. This practice is vital as it unveils the mechanics of storytelling across various mediums, helping you appreciate the art and science of narrative construction.

2. Tools of Narrative Analysis

Narrative analysis is akin to having a multi-tool kit that aids in dissecting and understanding the anatomy of a narrative. Let’s explore these tools in more depth, unveiling how they function within various storytelling mediums:

2.1. Structure:

  • Every narrative unfolds in a structured manner, typically having a beginning, middle, and end. This structure is crucial as it shapes the journey the audience embarks upon.
  • Example: In the movie “The Lion King,” the structure is evident:
    • Beginning: Introduces us to Simba, a young lion cub destined to be king.
    • Middle: Chronicles Simba’s exile and the lessons he learns in his time away.
    • End: Showcases Simba’s return to reclaim his rightful place as king.

2.2. Character Arcs:

  • Character arcs depict the transformation or journey of a character over the course of the narrative. It’s the heart of the narrative as it portrays the human experience.
  • Example: Frodo Baggins in “The Lord of The Rings” begins as a timid hobbit but evolves into a brave hero willing to sacrifice everything to destroy the ring. His arc is emotionally stirring and forms the crux of the narrative.

2.3. Themes:

  • Themes are the underlying ideas or messages conveyed through the narrative. They provide a deeper understanding of the narrative, often reflecting on societal, moral, or existential issues.
  • Example: The song “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan explores themes of peace, freedom, and the existential quest for answers to complex societal issues. Through poetic lyrics, Dylan prompts listeners to reflect on these profound topics.

2.4. Motifs:

  • Motifs are recurring elements that support or highlight the theme of the narrative. They act as symbolic threads woven through the narrative to reinforce the themes subtly.
  • Example: In “The Hunger Games,” the motif of the mockingjay is recurrent. Initially a symbol of Rue’s district, it evolves into a symbol of hope, rebellion, and the fight for freedom. Each reappearance of the mockingjay reinforces these themes, making it a powerful motif.

2.5. Setting:

  • The setting sets the stage for the narrative, contributing to the tone and mood. It can also play a crucial role in advancing the narrative.
  • Example: Gotham City in Batman comics, with its dark, gloomy atmosphere and crime-ridden streets, sets the perfect stage for a narrative centered around justice and heroism.

2.6. Dialogue:

  • Dialogue is a window into characters’ thoughts, feelings, and personalities. It also moves the narrative forward and can reinforce the themes.
  • Example: In the TV show “Game of Thrones,” Tyrion Lannister’s witty and often philosophical dialogues provide insight into his complex character while also exploring themes of power, identity, and societal acceptance.

2.7. Imagery and Symbolism:

  • Imagery and symbolism allow for a deeper exploration of themes and character arcs.
  • Example: The recurring imagery of the road in Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” symbolizes freedom, exploration, and the journey of self-discovery.

These tools are not just theoretical concepts but practical aids that guide you in the analysis and crafting of narratives. They are your compass, binoculars, and map as you traverse the enriching landscape of storytelling, providing you with the means to delve deeper into the intricacies of narratives across all mediums.

3. Narrative Analysis in Action

Let’s see narrative analysis in action using the story of “Cinderella”:

  • Structure: The story moves from Cinderella’s hardship, to the magical night at the ball, and finally her life-changing union with the prince.
  • Character Arc: Cinderella transforms from a downtrodden girl to a confident woman.
  • Themes: Themes of hope, magic, and justice prevail.
  • Motifs: The glass slipper, a motif, symbolizes Cinderella’s unique essence.

4. Your Turn to Analyze

Here are some exercises to hone your narrative analysis skills:

  • Pick a favorite movie or book and identify its structure, character arcs, themes, and motifs.
  • Listen to a song and jot down its recurring themes and how they are expressed.

Keep a narrative analysis journal to record your findings.

5. Applying Narrative Analysis to Your Own Work

Narrative analysis isn’t just about understanding the works of others; it’s a powerful tool to refine your own storytelling craft. By analyzing your narrative, you can discover what works, what doesn’t, and where you can improve. Let’s delve into how you can apply the insights from your narrative analysis to enhance various aspects of your own work:

5.1. Structuring Your Narrative Effectively:

  • A well-structured narrative is like a well-built house—it stands strong, flows seamlessly, and guides your audience through a clear journey.
  • Example: If you’re writing a novel, ensure there’s a clear beginning where characters and conflicts are introduced, a middle where tensions escalate, and a satisfying conclusion where conflicts are resolved.
  • Use narrative analysis to examine if your narrative structure has a clear progression, ensuring that each part builds upon the previous, leading towards a satisfying resolution.

5.2. Crafting Compelling Character Arcs:

  • Character arcs are the backbone of any narrative. They portray the growth, change, or regression of characters through the story.
  • Example: In your screenplay, does your protagonist evolve in a way that is believable and satisfying? Is their evolution clearly depicted through actions, decisions, and dialogues?
  • Analyzing your characters’ arcs can reveal if they are coherent, engaging, and contribute to the overall narrative.

5.3. Weaving Themes and Motifs That Resonate:

  • Themes and motifs add depth to your narrative, enabling your audience to connect on a deeper level.
  • Example: If you’re writing a song about overcoming adversity, are the themes of resilience and hope clearly explored? Are there recurring motifs that reinforce these themes?
  • Narrative analysis helps in identifying whether your themes are effectively communicated and if your motifs are well integrated to reinforce these themes.

5.4. Enhancing Setting and Atmosphere:

  • The setting of your story is not just a backdrop but a character in itself that interacts with your narrative.
  • Example: If you’re crafting a comic, does the setting contribute to the overall atmosphere? Does it interact with characters and influence the narrative progression?
  • Analyzing the setting can help in ensuring it enhances the narrative experience, be it creating tension, evoking emotions, or advancing the plot.

5.5. Refining Dialogue:

  • Dialogue should feel natural while advancing the narrative or revealing character traits.
  • Example: In your narrative, does the dialogue flow naturally? Does it reflect the character’s personality while moving the story forward?
  • A close analysis of dialogue can help in refining it to be more effective and purposeful.

5.6. Employing Imagery and Symbolism:

  • Imagery and symbolism provide a deeper layer of meaning, enriching the narrative experience.
  • Example: Are there symbolic elements in your poetry that evoke the intended emotions or themes?
  • Analyzing how imagery and symbolism are used can help in enhancing these elements to be more evocative and meaningful.

5.7. Seeking Feedback:

  • After applying narrative analysis to refine your work, seek feedback from trusted peers or mentors. They can provide additional insights and suggest areas for improvement.
  • Engage in writing groups or online forums to share your work and gain diverse perspectives.

Narrative analysis acts as a mirror, reflecting the strengths and areas of improvement in your narrative. It’s like having an editor by your side, guiding you on how to refine each element of your story to resonate deeply with your audience. Through a thorough narrative analysis, you can elevate your storytelling, ensuring your narrative is not just heard, but felt and remembered.


Narrative analysis is more than a theoretical concept; it’s a practical tool to elevate your storytelling. As you delve into the heart of narratives, extracting valuable insights, you’re not just a reader or viewer; you’re a narrative explorer. We invite you to share your narrative analysis findings or experiences in the comments below. Your narrative adventures are just beginning, and the map of narrative analysis is here to guide you.