4.2. Sections of narratives


Different narrative genres are organized differently.  For instance, oral story-telling follows fairly regular patterns.  Telling real or partly ficitionalised anecdotes is a well-defined discursive activity, which is recognised as such by participants in a conversation, as they give the "floor" to the story-teller and listen respectfully to his or her contribution.[1]   The ordinary rhythm of turn-taking is interrupted and the participants adhere to another set of discursive conventions.  The story-teller usually follows principles of relevance, economy and tellability while he is holding his audience's attention.  The action itself must be generally tellable and/or relevant to the conversational topic, and the criteria of unity, novelty, surprise, plot construction and characterization are as relevant as in literature.  The narrative itself is organized into different sections: an abstract which justifies the telling of the story and captures the hearers' attention, a retrospective and more detailed orientation which provides setting and the preliminaries of the action; a complicating action which leads towards the maximum point of interest, suspense, humour, etc. in the story; an evaluation  or commentary on the teller's part, assessing the situation from a distance; the result or resolution  of the action, which is the narrative climax; and finally a coda  recapitulating the main point of the story and preparing the transition to normal turn-taking.[2]



[1]          See Pratt, Toward a Speech-Act Theory of Literature.

[2]          On oral narrative of personal experience and its sections, see Labov's Language in the Inner City.