Narrative Technique in Novel: Definition, Types & Examples

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      Narrative technique is another necessary element in novel writing. This is the method that authors use to tell their stories. Narrative technique is the umbrella term for the multiple devices of storytelling. In the terms of narratology’s distinction between story and discourse or the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of narrative, narrative technique is a rough synonym for discourse. Narrative technique is so central to our understanding of storytelling that, throughout history, theorists of narrative in general (e.g. Aristotle in the Poetics, 335 BCE) or the novel in particular (e.g. Henry Fielding in his Preface to Joseph Andrews, 1742) invariably comment on it. But ever since Henry James wrote his Prefaces to the New York edition of his novels (1909-10), theorists have paid increasing attention to the subject, as they have proposed and debated various ways of achieving a more adequate understanding of its workings.

      When analyzing a novel, it is important to identify these techniques in order to shed light on the ways in which they function in the story. Although there are far too many types of narrative techniques to cover in a single article, there are a few types of techniques that can be found in many novels. Where there is a story, there is a storyteller. Traditionally, the narrator of the epic and mock-epic alike acted as an intermediary between the characters and the reader; the method of Fielding is not very different from the method of Homer. Sometimes the narrator boldly imposed his own attitudes; always he assumed an omniscience that tended to reduce the characters to puppets and the action to a predetermined course with an end implicit in the beginning. Of course, many novelists have been unhappy about a narrative method that seems to limit the free will of the characters, and innovations in fictional technique have mostly sought the objectivity of the drama, in which the characters appear to work out their own destinies without prompting from the author.

      The problem of a satisfactory narrative point of view is, in fact, nearly insoluble. The careful exclusion of comment, the limitation of vocabulary to a sort of reader’s lowest common denominator, the paring of style to the absolute minimum - these puritanical devices work well for an Ernest Hemingway but not for a novelist who believes that, like poetry, his art should be able to draw on the richness of word play, allusion, and symbol. For even the most experienced novelist, each new work represents a struggle with the unconquerable task of reconciling all-inclusion with self-exclusion.

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