Storytelling guide

Narratology unravels the DNA of engaging storytelling

Ever sat down to watch a movie or read a book and thought, “Why am I so drawn to this story?” It’s not magic (well, not unless you’re reading Harry Potter). It’s narratology.

You know that feeling when you’re totally lost in a story? That’s narratology at work. It’s the study of how stories are structured and told. Think of it as the skeleton of a story, holding everything together.

1. The Birth of Narratology

Imagine sitting around a campfire thousands of years ago, listening to a tribal elder spin a tale. Now, fast forward to today, where you’re curled up on your couch binge-watching the latest Netflix series. Even though these scenarios seem worlds apart, there’s a secret thread connecting them: the way stories are structured.

some eagle-eyed scholars started noticing something cool. Stories from Japan had some things in common with tales from Africa or legends from Europe. It wasn’t just about heroes saving the day or monsters causing chaos. It was about the bones of the story, the way events unfolded and how characters developed. These scholars decided to dig deeper and study these patterns. And voila! Narratology, the study of how stories work, was born.

1.1. Narrative Patterns Throughout History

This narratology business isn’t some trendy, new-age stuff we just made up. It’s ancient. Remember those stories of brave warriors like Achilles from Greek myths or adventurous explorers like Sinbad the Sailor? These weren’t just wild tales; they followed specific structures. Fast forward to the present, and guess what? Your favorite Netflix show, with all its cliffhangers and plot twists, is playing by some of the same storytelling rules.

1.2. Why It Matters Now

Whether you’re penning a novel or scripting a video game, understanding narratology can be your secret weapon.

Let’s say you’ve got this amazing idea for a story. Maybe it’s about a girl who finds a mysterious key, or perhaps it’s a space adventure with aliens and laser battles. Whatever your idea, understanding narratology is like having a magic blueprint. It can guide you on how to make your story captivating and memorable.

Whether you’re dreaming of writing the next bestseller, creating an addictive video game, or even starting a YouTube series, getting the hang of narratology is like adding a secret ingredient to your creative recipe. Your stories become richer, your characters more compelling, and your plot lines irresistibly engaging. It’s the kind of knowledge that can turn a good storyteller into a great one.

2. Core Concepts in Narratology

Every story you love has some common ingredients. Let’s get to know them.

  • Narrative Levels: Stories within stories. Sounds fun, right? Like in “The Princess Bride” where a grandfather narrates a tale to his grandson. This layering adds depth.
  • Time and Order: Not all stories are told in order. Remember “Memento”? Events unfolded backward. That’s playing with discourse versus the actual story.
  • Focalization: Ever heard of POV (Point Of View)? That’s focalization. “Harry Potter” mostly shows us Harry’s perspective. This is why we feel every emotion he does.

3. Understanding Plot and Structure

How do stories move? They follow patterns.

  • A. Acts and Sequences: Take “The Lion King.” Simba’s childhood, exile, and return? That’s a classic three-act structure.
  • B. Narrative Arcs: Think of Bilbo in “The Hobbit.” From his comfy home to facing a dragon and back, that journey’s shape is a narrative arc.

4. Character Development in Narratology

Characters are the heart of any story. How do they fit in?

  • Roles and Archetypes: In “The Avengers,” Tony Stark is the genius, Thor’s the outsider, and Nick Fury’s the mentor. Recognize those roles? They’re everywhere.
  • Character-driven vs. Plot-driven Narratives: “Catcher in the Rye”? Totally about Holden’s feelings. “Jurassic Park”? Dinosaurs run wild! One’s character-driven, the other’s plot-driven.

5. The Importance of Setting and World-building

The world around characters matters.

  • Immersion and Believability: “Wakanda” in “Black Panther” isn’t just a backdrop. It has history, rules, and a vibe. It’s almost a character itself.
  • Symbolism in Setting: Ever wondered why so many fairy tales have dark woods, like in “Hansel and Gretel”? Woods symbolize the unknown, challenges, and transformation.

6. The Power of Themes and Motifs

Deep down, stories often circle back to central ideas.

  • Identifying Recurring Themes: “Toy Story” isn’t just about toys. It’s about friendship, loyalty, and change.
  • Using Motifs Effectively: The color green keeps popping up in “The Great Gatsby.” It’s not random; it’s a motif symbolizing Gatsby’s dreams and hopes.

7. Conclusion

Stories, whether in comic books, folk tales, or blockbuster movies, follow patterns. Recognizing those patterns, understanding the why behind them, that’s narratology.

Remember, stories are more than just words on a page or images on a screen. They’re an art form with structures, rules, and patterns. And the better we understand them, the better stories we can tell.

Questions and Comments

If you have a question let me know in the comments.

If you feel like you have a good grasp on narratology but still find it difficult to craft a story, you might want to check out my guide on how to start a story.