The word narrate comes from the Latin narrare, meaning “to know,” and is defined as the action of “giving a description or account of.” The word narrative refers to “the act, technique or process of narrating” (Webster 727): in other words, storytelling. Everyone has a story to tell, and for this reason the narrative is the most popular genre among writers and readers. Since any event or story can be related through a narrative, the story can be fact or fiction and has no restrictions of time, space, place, or form. A narrative can be transmitted through voice, words, actions, music, or a combination thereof. As narratives increase in length, the subgenres change names—the longest being the novel—but in essence they remain the same.
To understand a narrative, you must learn to go inside the writer’s head and see through his or her eyes. This perspective is influenced not only by the words on the page, but by the culture and history, both personal and public, of the writer. The goal of this chapter is to help you, the reader, create a structure of knowledge with which to penetrate the narrative texts and understand the story being told.