4. Seymour Chatman: Satellites & Kernels

  • Kernels: key moments in the plot / narrative structure
  • Satellites: embellishments, developments, aesthetics

This theory allows students to break down a narrative into 2 distinct elements. Those elements which are absolutely essential to the story / plot / narrative development, which are known as KERNELS and those moments that could be removed and the overall logic would not be disturbed, known as SATELLITES. Think about the way satellites orbit something bigger like a planet. Satellites can therefore be thought as useful to develop character, emotion, location, time and so on, but NOT ESSENTIAL. In this way they are really useful creative elements but not essential to the story. As such, some elements may emerge and play out but actually turn out to be of little value, meaning or consequence to the overall / main parts of the narrative – these can be called non-sequitars. Nevertheless, the use of light & shade is very important in terms of constructing an effective and enjoyable narrative.

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