Story, Plot and Narrative
Every novel has a story, a plot and a narrative. At first sight, these three terms might intertwine and seem very similar to each other, but, there are some differences between them that every writer should be aware of. This article takes a look at what these distinctions are.
Story is represented by a sequence of events that happened, or happened because of a character’s actions. For example, we have the following two sentences.
The King died.
The King died, and then the Queen died.
These two sentences can be used to explain the true meaning behind the term story. In the first sentence, we have a single event, that is, the death of a king. It can be considered a story, albeit a short one, but the true meaning of story is shown in the second sentence. Here we have two events, which happened in chronological order, and have been written that way (first the king died, and then the queen died after him). The story told in a novel is exactly that – a sequence of many events, going from point A, to point B, C and so on, until the end has been reached, where the story ends. So, the question that follows is why story isn’t a plot?
Plot is what makes the sequence of events that construct the story. Point A leads to point B, and so on. The plot, however, doesn’t necessarily have to be chronological – in fact, event A could lead to the happening of event D, chronologically. That’s why plot is what makes a story make sense, making it whole, credible, and seem almost real. To go back to the example above:
The King died and then the Queen died.
The King died and then the Queen died of grief.
The addition of “of grief” in the second sentence is what makes the story about the king and the queen make sense. Those two words show that the queen loved the king, so she died when he died. We have cause (the king’s death), and the effect (the queen dying from grief). In a novel, of course, this happens on a bigger scale, with the most miniscule and, at first sight, irrelevant events and character’s actions having a logical consequence that adds credibility to the story.
But, both story and plot wouldn’t exist, for lack of a better word, without the narrative. Think of narrative as the core structure of a building. Without it, the building would collapse. However, a narrative can also be a recollection of events, that, while they tell a story, they’re not connected by plot. On the level of a novel, things change. The narrative becomes an important device of the storytelling method, mainly depending on the narrative voice and style. Narrative voice is the voice of the one who tells the story, or simply, the narrator. The narrator can be the protagonist, and he or she can tell the events of the story with or without being aware of the audience (the readers).
The story can be told in the third person, through an omnipresent point of view (where the author knows what everybody is thinking, and, often shows this in the writing), or a limited third person point of view where the author has a limited amount of information, only as much as the protagonist does. The importance of the narrative is in the information that it gives to the reader – revealing the plot, the emotions of the characters and telling the story. An omnipresent narrative, for example, will reveal a lot more than a first person narrative, because the first person point of view is limited to the character that is “speaking” or narrating the story. In the example above, the narrator can easily be considered omnipresent, especially in the last sentence, because the narrator lets the readers know that the queen died of grief.