chapter 4: elements of narrative

what is narrative?
o a narrative is a story
o fiction films, as opposed to documentary or experimental
o a cinematic structure in which the filmmakers have selected and arranged events in a cause-and effect
sequence occurring over time
o narration and narrator
o narration is the act of telling the story
 omniscient: meaning it knows all and can tell us whatever it wants us to know
 restricted: limits the information it provides the audience to things only known to a single
o narrator is who or what tells the story
 first person narrator typically imparts information in the form of voice-over narration
 direct address: first person narrator interrupts the narrative to deliver information,
breaking the fourth wall
 third person narrator: narration can also be expressed by a voice imposed from outside of
the narrative, also participant in story
o narratives all consist of characters pursuing a goal
o nature of pursuit depends on character’s background, position, personality, attitudes, and beliefs
o allies and adversaries that the character attracts are influenced by these traits, as are all interactions
between these other various characters
o round characters: complex characters, more life-like, traits can even change over the course of the story
o flat characters: exhibit few distinct traits and do not change significantly as the story progresses
o protagonist: primary character who pursues the goal
o antiheroes: unsympathetic protagonists chasing less than noble goals
narrative structure
o beginning, middle, end
o must first establish normal world, rules of the universe we will inhabit
o catalyst: inciting incident that must occur to change the normal world
o antagonist: the person, creature, or force responsible for obstructing our protagonist
o stakes: the deeper we get in a story, the greater the risk to our protagonist
o rising action: narrative building towards a peak, conflict intensifies
o narrative peak is called the crisis
o climax occurs when protagonist faces major obstacle, most impressive event in movie
o resolution: third act of falling action
the screenwriter
o responsible for coming up with the story, either from scratch or by adapting from another source
elements of narrative
story and plot
o story: consists of all the narrative events that are explicitly presented on screen plus events that are implicit
or that we infer to have happened but are not explicitly presented
o diegesis: the total world of the story, the events, characters, objects, settings, sounds that form the world in
which the story occurs
o elements that make up the diegesis are diegetic elements
o plot: consists of specific actions and events hat the filmmakers select and the order in which they arrange
those events so as to effectively convey the narrative to the viewer
o nondiegetic elements: those things that we see and hear on the screen that come from outside the world of
the story (score music)
o backstory: a fictional history behind the situation extant at the start of the main story
o plot order can be manipulated so that events are presented in nonchronological sequences that emphasize
important or meaning or that establish desired expectations in audiences
o hierarchy consists of the events that seem crucial to the plot and the events that play a less crucial or even
subordinate role
o first category includes major events or branching points in the plot structure that force characters
to choose between or among alternate paths
o second includes minor plot events that add texture and complexity to characters but are not
essential elements within the narrative
o duration is the length of time
o story duration: the amount of time that the implied story takes to occur
o plot duration: the elapsed time of those events within the story that the film explicitly presented
o screen duration: movie’s running time on screen
o cinematic time: edits indicate that the images occur in human made cinematic time, not seamless real time
suspense versus surprise
o surprise: a being taken unawares, emotional response to it is short lived
o suspense: more drawn out, anxiety brought on by a partial uncertainty, when we grow to empathize with
o number of times wih which a story element recurs in a plot
o familiar image: defined as any image that a director periodically repeats in a movie to help stabilize
o time and place in which the story occurs
o the overall range, in time and place, of the movie’s story
o can range from distant past to narrative present or they can be narrowly focused on a short period