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Complex Narrative Structure

Complex Narrative Structure

From Google Answers

"Complex narrative structure is used by authors to add interest by
complicating the story.

There are several authorial methods of achieving this.
It can occur when the author uses causally unrelated narratives to
work together to build thematic unity. This usually involves two or
three or more clearly defined narratives each with their own sets of
characters. There is often little or no intermingling of characters or
narrative events, simply two or three narratives existing alongside
each other.

One of the problems this causes authors involves not letting the
reader lose track of what's going on. Since there are so many stories
happening at once, a lot more reader activity is required to keep
track of the various narratives. Therefore time and place are usually
clearly defined: events often occur within a very specific time frame
in a specific locale to keep the reader focussed. In order to achieve
a form of formal closure, there is usually an event at the end of the
story that brings all characters to one location or at least affects
them all in some way.

Another way an author can use complex narrative structure is in
interlayering many flashbacks, or introducing fantasy elements or
stories within stories to make the story diverge from a central plot
line while maintaining thematic unity . Don Quixote is generally
considered the first of the "complex" narrative novels.

To quote from "Narrative Structure and Metafiction" at

The narrative structure of Don Quixote is highly complex. At times,
the reader feels unsure what is real and what has been invented by
Cervantes. This is because the story is metafictive. It is a story
within a story within a story within a story again. (The prefix
"meta" is Greek for "again" meaning literally, "fiction again.")
Another example is the use of a complex time structure. Wuthering
Heights by Emily Bronte begins in 1801, towards the end of the
sequence of events that forms the plot and the story moves back and
forward in time as the story unfolds.

To quote from

"Whilst this narrative structure may, at first, appear over-complex,
it is necessary because in the world of the novel and the lives and
concerns of the characters, ordinary chronological time is irrelevant;
the events of twenty-five years ago are as much part of the present as
those in which Lockwood himself is involved in 1801."
By using the complex narrative structure, Bronte was able to show how
the past and the present are intermingled, and was able to maintain
the common theme of the story while adding interest by adding

So in summary, complex narratives are used by authors to tell stories
in interesting ways and may involve one or more of the following:

- flashbacks
- dream sequences
- repetition
- different characters' point of view
- multiple plot lines converging at the end
- flash forwards
- different time frames
- pre-figuring of events that have not yet taken place
- circular plotting where we are led back to the beginning
- backwards story telling, where the denoument is shown first and
explained through the plot

The use of these is done with the intent of providing a deeper, more
satisfying experience for the reader.

See Also : 
How a story is shaped
Google search used
"narrative structure" theory
complex "narrative structure" literature


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Feel free to access these resources for study purposes or classroom use. However where they have been directly dowloaded for distribution or copied and provided as notes, please acknowledge as a courtesy. John Watson