To Users:
Narratology studies narrative structures. It is particularly important since the way we narrate a story constitutes one of the primary ways we construct meaning in general.
As __Hayden White__ puts it, "far from being one code among many that a culture may utilize for endowing experience with meaning, narrative is a meta-code, a human universal on the basis of which transcultural messages about the nature of a shared reality can be transmitted".(1) This page attempts to give you a brief introduction about narattology in fiction.
Narrative genres
Narratological Questions in a novel
Narrative levels:
Narrative situation
External links
Books recommended

Narrative genres:
As is seen from the diagram, narratology is concerned with all types of narratives, literary and nonliterary, fictional and nonfictional, verbal and nonverbal. The overarching distinction is clearly that between fictional and nonfictional narratives.

However, it has been mentioned in the very beginning that this page focuses on fictional narratives. Then let's see some relevant definitions.

Narrative structure:
It is generally described as the structural framework that underlies the order and manner in which a __narrative__ is presented to a reader, listener, or viewer.

Narratology is about narrative in general. It deals especially with the identification of structural elements and their diverse modes of combination, with recurrent narrative devices, and with the analy­sis of the kinds of discourse by which a narrative gets told.(2)

Fictional narrative:
A fictional narrative presents an imaginary narrator's account of a story that happened in an imaginary world. A fictional narrative is appreciated for its entertainment and educational value, possibly also for providing a vision of characters who might exist or might have existed, and a vision of things that might happen or could have happened. Although a fictional narrative may freely refer to actual people, places and events, it cannot be used as evidence of what happened in the real world.(3)

Narratological Questions in a novel:
How can narratology be analyzed in a novel? The following questions are typical examples.
  • What is the narrative voice that forms the shell of the novel? Is it a person? A first person? What kind of persona is suggested? What range of tones obtains?
  • What dynamics prevail between the narrative persona and the novel's [other] characters? What generalizations can you offer about the location(s) of formal point of view, as between narrator and characters?
  • Does the text have or seem to have a plurality of narrative personae? If so, what are the relations among them? Does a single narrative persona seem to have a variety of different voices or tones? If so, what are their relations? If the narrative persona is itself dialogic or polylogic, how would you describe its constituents? Do there seem to be struggles over which may speak? Where, why, what about?
  • What seems to constitute a character in this book: what combination of name, occupation, narrative psychological sketch, exterior description, interior description, speech production, tics, epithets, object attributes, unpredictability, predictability, etc.? There will probably be different levels, different groupings of "characters" for each novel. How different are the different levels at which "characters" are produced: are there a few who have "depth" silhouetted against a mass of extras, or a large number of approximately equal dimensionality, or does the novel display a blur at center stage but a sharp peripheral vision, or what? What gender/class/other accounts can you give of such effects?
  • What is the novel's temporality like? What is the relation of narrated time to elapsed time? Is the novel imaginatively involved with temporal linearity; simultaneity; repetition; fragmentation; elasticity? With what implications? What happens, temporally, in the breaks between novelistic units (paragraphs, chapters)? What power and other relations are implied in that?
  • What makes a characteristic sentence, or rhythm of sentences, in this novel? It's always fascinating to do as intensive a grammatical analysis as you can of some sentences that seem to you characteristic. What is the experience of reading such sentences like? What is a characteristic tone, or sequence of tones (at the micro level)? Is the play of tones steady or disorienting? What are the tenses most often used in the narration, and with what effects? From what range of levels and kinds of diction is the vocabulary drawn? The best stylistic heuristic: try writing a paragraph or two that parodies the novel's style, and analyze from that what patterns are salient in the experience of reading the novel's prose. Imagine the most possible different kinds of connection to make between these stylistic generalizations and the other things going on in the novel. Choose a few stylistic habits that seem to you especially notable, and free-associate about their possible connections with the other issues that interest you.
NOTE——to solve all these problems, one should study a specific novel or fiction. At the bottom of the page, you may click into one of the external links (marked one) to see some concrete examples.

Narrative levels:
Story-telling can occur on many different levels. As Barth (1984 [1981]) puts it, there are "tales within tales within tales". One such circumstance arises when a character in a story begins to tell a story of his or her own, creating a narrative within a narrative, or a tale within a tale. The original narrative now becomes a 'frame' or 'matrix' narrative, and the story told by the narrating character becomes an 'embedded' or 'hyponarrative' (Bal 1981a: 43):

In example (b), A is a first-degree narrative, B1 and B2 are second-degree narratives, and C is a third-degree narrative. Finally, example (c) illustrates the embedding structure of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. James's novel ends on the conclusion of a third-degree narrative (the Governess's tale) without explicitly closing its two superordinate matrix narratives.

NOTE——There are a number of texts which are famous for their multiply embedded narratives: The Thousand and One Nights, Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, Jan Potocki's The Saragossa Manuscript, Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, John Barth's "Menelaiad".

Narrative situation:
  • A first-person narrative is told by a narrator who is present as a character in his/her story; it is a story of events s/he has experienced him- or herself, a story of personal experience. The individual who acts as a narrator (narrating I) is also a character (experiencing I) on the level of action.
  • An authorial narrative is told by a narrator who is absent from the story, i.e., does notappear as a character in the story. The authorial narrator tells a story involving other people. An authorial narrator sees the story from an outsider's position, often a position of absolute authority that allows her/him to know everything about the story's world and its characters, including their conscious thoughts and unconscious motives.
  • A figural narrative presents a story as if seeing it through the eye of a character.
In addition to the three standard narrative situations, we will briefly mention four peripheral categories: we-narratives, you-narratives, simultaneous narration and camera-eye narration.

(1)White, Hayden. The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1987
(2)Abrams,M H.& Harpham Geoffrey Galt. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Boston: Wadsworth, 2009
(3)Jahn, Manfred. Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative. English Department, University of Cologne,2005.

External links:

Books recommended about narratolgy:
(1)Chatman, Seymour. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1978.
This is one of the most cited introductions to narrative theory—and no wonder: the presentation of the material is clear and concise. Chatman also provides a number of helpful examples in this book.
(2)Cohen, Steven and Linda M. Shires. Telling Stories: A Theoretical Analysis of Narrative Fiction.New York: Routledge, 1988.
A helpful introduction to narrative theory by way of poststructuralism. It includes numerous heuristic examples and is designed to be accessible to undergraduate students without dumbing down the original theories.
(3)Prince, Gerald, A Dictionary of Narratology. Revised Edition. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003