Narrative, story, plot . . .

According to Thompson (1990) ‘in studying narrative structure, we can seek to identify the specific narrative devices which operate within a particular narrative, and to elucidate their role in telling a story . . . it can be illuminating to focus on a particular set of narratives . . . and to seek to identify the basic patterns and roles which are common to them.’ (288)

Thompson makes a distinction between a narrative which may be regarded, broadly speaking, as a communication which ‘tells a story’. The story generally consists of characters and a succession of events, combined in a way which displays a certain orientation or ‘plot’. As such, narrative is the overall structure involved in communication, which can be broken down into: ‘story’ and ‘plot’.

STORY is often associated with themes and meaning and can be decoded from all of the different elements that are used, for example, the characters, setting, props and themes etc. Whereas the PLOT is the way in which the story (elements/themes/ideas/meaning) is organised and sequenced. For example, linear / chronological, flashback, flash forward, parallel narrative, montage etc. (you can find more about these techniques on this post: the language of moving image) So in other words, plot is about techniques of organisation, story is about themes, meaning and ideas. Narrative theory looks at all of this.

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