Language and Linguistics

Narrative genre with characteristics and elements

Narrative genre

The narrative genre is one of the fundamental forms of discourse and universal literature , closely linked to the need to tell others and ourselves the facts that affect us or seem most significant to us. Narrative genre with characteristics

Although mainly associated with prose, the narrative genre includes other forms, such as poetry or dramaturgy, and ranges from oral tradition to different written genres, and to forms such as film, music, theater, comics or video games. .

A first concept about the narrative genre is attributed to Aristotle, in Poetics, which would come to be a mimesis of actions and, as a secondary concept, a mimesis of acting men .

In other words, the narrative would be a sequence of actions and events performed by humans and narrated by a particular voice. This does not exclude myths about gods or fables of animals, which in both cases act like humans.

The narrative genre is an attempt, not always successful, to make sense of the accumulation of everyday or extraordinary events and events, structuring it as a coherent story or stories.

Historical origin of the narrative genre

Narrative forms are as old as language, and would have their origin in creation myths and popular tales of wars and hunts. In more recent times, the first millennium BC, the narrative genre would have passed from the oral to the written tradition.

In the transition from oral to written literature, the narrative genre would have developed starting from religious stories, epic poetry, dramaturgy and the first historical chronicles.

Characteristics of the narrative genre

1-Fictional character

Every text or narrative discourse, even having a historical basis, is a fiction, a story that can be credible without being real.

2-It is done in prose

Currently the genre is developed mainly in prose, but initially it included epic poetry, and in recent times novels in verse or poetic prose have been published .

A narrative is a succession of events and adventures related by time, space and a certain number of characters.

3-Features a narrative voice

The narration implies the existence of a narrator or more; the story is told by one or more voices.


Although the narrative genre has become increasingly complex, the stories told are usually divided into: presentation of facts and characters, the core of the conflict and the outcome.

5-The how and what are related

In the narrative genre, content or history coexists and maintains a dynamic relationship with form and rhetorical discourse: what is told with how it is told.

Elements of the narrative genre


It is the voice that tells the story or the story, which can well be identified with the voice of the author, with that of an “implicit narrator”, or with that of one or more characters who tell the story.

It is said that a narrator is omniscient when he knows and exposes all the data of the characters and the story. But a narration can also be in the first, second and third person. The third person is the most used in the narrative genre.


It is the object, event or character that the story is about. A complex story usually has a main theme and several sub-themes, while short subgenres like the story have a single theme or aspect that they develop in depth.

Although there are limitless ways to approach a story, it has been said that there are a limited number of themes: war, love, friendship, death, the transition from childhood to adulthood, the search for riches, religion, search for the meaning of life, travel, exploration of this and other worlds, personal identity, national identity, etc.

3-Plot or plot

It is the way in which the events unfold, sequences, incidents or related episodes, which give coherence and credibility to the story.

The plot is the space-time sequence in which the story unfolds, and it does not necessarily have to be linear or continuous.


They are the elements that carry out the actions narrated in the story. The characters are not necessarily human (in myths they can be gods or forces of nature, and animals or landforms in fables).


It is the historical, social and cultural context in which the story takes place, and in which the characters unfold. The setting can be contemporary with the author or artificially created (as in historical novels).


It constitutes the author’s “signature”, it is related to the narrative discourse, the personal or characteristic way in which a topic is treated, the use of literary and colloquial forms of language, and ways of approaching the reality told. Narrative genre with characteristics

Narrative subgenres

Although some authors include epic and heroic poetry as narrative subgenres, these are formally closer to poetry. On the other hand, myths, fable, novel, short story, biography and chronicle, speeches generally in prose, are clearly part of the narrative genre.


They are at the base and substrate of all the cultures of the world. They are stories of creation, which also serve to explain from geographical accidents to the reason for certain social customs.

In the West, Greco-Latin myths and Judeo-Christian stories form the mythical basis of our culture. We have a classic example in Ovid ‘s Metamorphoses.


Like myths, fables are present in almost all cultures and generally have animals as characters that, in a mythical time, speak and behave like human beings.

The fable generally has a didactic and moralizing purpose, it aims to convey a teaching through a story that involves one or more animals.

3-The novel

It is a literary form whose origin dates back to Hellenistic Greece and which was cultivated throughout the Middle Ages creating subgenres such as the chivalric novel. However, Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote is considered the beginning of the modern novel .

The novel is an extensive narrative that can be divided into chapters, in which a main theme is developed accompanied by several secondary themes and digressions that follow the main theme.

It is a subgenre that feeds on the other subgenres, to the point of being considered an open and total literary work. In a novel there may be philosophy, cooking recipes, journalistic chronicles, poems, instructions, historical texts, manifestos, etc. Narrative genre with characteristics

4-The story

It is another subgenre with a tradition that dates back to the invention of writing, along with myths and fables, and responds to the human need to tell events that left their mark, in a brief and shocking way.

A story is a short narrative with few characters and a main theme or situation developed and resolved in a short time. Although there are long stories, these can generally be covered in a single reading.

Argentine short story writer Julio Cortázar, using boxing as a metaphor, stated that in a fight the story won by knockout, while a novel won by points. He also said that a story was equivalent to a photograph, and a novel to a movie.

5-The biography

In Greece and Rome the biography was a subgenre that flourished before the novel, and since then it has moved between literature and historiography. Autobiographies, confessions, and memoirs are personalized forms of biography.

It is a subgenre that narrates the life of a historical character, through which a society and culture are portrayed at a certain time.

6-The chronic

The chronicle is a mixture of information with emotion. Like biography, it is a subgenre that moves between literature, historiography and journalism.

The chronicle is a generally short text about a certain situation or event, developed from a personal point of view, and with a literary treatment. Although it is a genre with a clear informative facet, the treatment of the subject goes beyond the journalistic.

Other subgenres

The narrative genre has other subgenres that derive from the topics discussed, such as fantasy literature, historical literature, anticipation literature, police, sword and fantasy literature, erotic literature, western and autofiction.

Examples of works of the narrative genre

1-Myths and fables

In Western culture, Greek myths are fundamental, present in Hesiod’s Theogony , Homeric poems and Greek tragedies. The texts contained in the Old Testament are also foundational .

The fables of Aesop, Jean de la Fontaine, and in Spanish of Félix María Samaniego are famous.


It is a widely cultivated subgenus, but we can mention among the most important Don Quijote de la Mancha , by Miguel de Cervantes; Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe; Madame Bovary , by Gustave Flaubert; The Heart of Darkness , by Joseph Conrad.

Mention should be made of contemporary novels such as In Search of Lost Time , by Marcel Proust; the Ulysses of James Joyce; The Castle , by Franz Kafka; Latin American novels such as One Hundred Years of Solitude , by Gabriel García Márquez, or Rayuela , by Julio Cortázar. Narrative genre with characteristics


The compilations of Renaissance stories such as The Decameron , by Giovanni Boccaccio or the Canterbury Tales , by Geoffrey Chaucer, are famous . In the 19th century, Edgar Allan Poe, Anton Chejov and Guy de Maupassant stand out as extraordinary storytellers, who could be considered the founders of the modern tale.

In the 20th century, perhaps the greatest storyteller in the Spanish language was the Argentine Jorge Luis Borges, author of books such as Historia universal de la infamia , Ficciones, and El Informe de Brodie .

4-Biography and chronicle

The Parallel Lives , a set of biographies written in Greek by Plutarch, where he related the lives of two historical figures, such as Alexander and Julius Caesar, have been famous and very influential .

In Spanish the memoirs of Pablo Neruda, I Confess that I have lived , or My Last Sigh , by the filmmaker Luis Buñuel, have been widely read and influential .

In Spanish, the chronicles of the Mexican Carlos Monsiváis were highly celebrated, and the book by Gabriel García Márquez , On a trip through socialist countries , is still being read .

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