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The Difference Between a Literary and Natural Narrative

by Kate Prudchenko, Demand Media Google

    Writers have the power to transform simple accounts of characters, events and a plot -- also known as natural narratives -- into compelling stories and essays, also known as literary narratives. Writers transform natural narratives into literary narratives by infusing the natural story with a particular point of view or different points of view, dialogue, setting and perspectives. This type of manipulation allows the writer to guide the narrative and tell a particular kind of story.

    Natural vs. Literal Narratives

    In general, a narrative, or a story, is either a natural narrative or a literal narrative. A natural narrative contains the story’s basic narrative elements such plot, setting, characterization and speech. Unlike a natural narrative, which has not been manipulated in any premeditated way, a literal narrative is a manipulation of the natural narrative. A literal narrative compresses or expands the natural narrative or rearranges or omits certain elements of the natural narrative.

    Natural Narratives

    In his work, “Natural Narratives,” William Lybov, an expert scholar in the field, identifies six elements of all natural narratives and the order in which they appear. A natural narrative will have an abstract, which explains the general purpose of telling the story; an orientation, which identifies the who, what, when and where of the story; a complicating action, the event from which the plot of the story begins; a resolution, the closure of the plot; an evaluation/reflection, the interpretation of the plot; and a coda, the indication that nothing else of relevance to the story happens after the story is complete.

    Rearranging Elements of Natural Narratives

    A literal narrative manipulates the six elements of a natural narrative in some way. It may delete the abstract, evaluation or the coda to create space for the reader to fill in those elements according to their own interpretations. A literal narrative may also rearrange the elements by starting with the complicating action and then proceeding back to the abstract. A literal narrative may also add dialogue or characters, change the setting of the story, or change the story’s point of view.

    Using Literary Language

    A literary narrative uses literary language to add and elaborate upon the natural narrative. It may use figurative language like similes, metonyms and metaphors, make use of language sounds like rhythm, diction and syntax or make allusions to other narratives. A literary narrative may also show the events of the story instead of simply telling them. Finally, a literary narrative also makes connections to other things outside the story, such as statements about society and people. These kinds of elaborations upon the six elements of the natural narrative allow the writer to create a narrative which has multiple levels of meanings.

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    About the Author

    Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.

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