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Narrative Structure

Page history last edited by Jayson Yeagley 12 years, 5 months ago


Summary of Narrative Form:

1. The diegesis consists of the world of the story.  Non-diegetic elements allow the filmmaker to communicate with the audience directly vs through characters or other aspects of the fictional world.

2. The distinction between the SYUZHET and the FABULA is critical for understanding the significance of the order and selection of events. SYUZHET contains all represented events.  SYUZHET consists of a complete and chronological accounting of all represented or implied events.  The fabula is "the raw material of a story, and syuzhet, the way a story is organized...

3. Many narrative films conform to a three or four part formula.  Alternatives include two part structure/frame or embedded tale, and episodic narratives.

4. Some films adopt, and others discard conventions of form.

5. Most narrative films use restricted narration providing subjective and objective info to the viewers.

6. Point of view shots may not align viewers with characters.  They may encourage viewers to understand or sympathize with characters.  This knowledge effects their response to the character.

7. Narrative films tend to privilege the perspective of one or two main characters.  As they unfold, they may shift between or among characters.




Three-Act Structure

Act One: Exposition leads to turning point

Act Two: Complications lead to climax

Act Three: Action Leads to resolution


Four-Part Structure (Thompson)

1. Exposition Leads to turning Point

2. Complicating action leads to major turning point at halfway mark (Dead Center of Film)

3. Development: Struggle towards goal leads to climax

4. Epilogue



The principals of narrative govern commercial feature films emerged form the early days of film making.  The formula for making popular films that tell stories and refined these rules over several decades.  The rules include:



The "Rules" for classical Hollywood narrative film include: (Formulas)

1. Clarity- viewers should not be confused about space, time, events, or character motivation

2. Unity- Connections between cause and effect must be direct and complete

3. Characters-they should invite viewer identification, be active, and seek goals.

4. Closure- Third act and epilogue should tie up loose ends and answer all questions

5. Unobtrusive Craftsmanship- Stories are told in a manner that draws viewers into the diegesis and does not call attention to the story telling process. 



The following filmmaking traditions have modified or rejected the rules of the dominant Hollywood method of storytelling:

1. Art Films

2. Independent Films





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