Narrative genre: What is it, Function, Characteristics, Elements and subgenres? 


What is the narrative genre? 

In the literary field, texts are classified according to genres, which allow for a broader and more generalized organization and understanding of texts. It is precisely from these genres that the subgenres and types of literature with which we interact today begin to emerge.

Particularly, the literary narrative genre is one of the richest in variety, given that other major categories have generated a production of extremely important works for world literature.

Definition of narrative genre

The definition of narrative genre or narrative, as it is also known, is one of the largest genres of literature, whose texts can be presented orally or in writing, so that each of them relate events or stories that may or may not be fictional. It is a genre that includes the presence of characters that are described in the text and their participation in the course of the story, where each one proposes a point of view or a perspective from their thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Meaning of narrative genre

When we talk about narrative, we refer directly to narrate as a central fact. To narrate means to tell or relate events that make up a story. The term narrative comes from the Latin narratio, which refers to substantial elements that are part of the action and effect of telling or narrating a story, either from fiction or from reality itself.

Thus, according to the origin of the word, it has been able to give rise to another series of elements that will depend on aspects such as length, theme, form of writing, etc., which will give rise to the subgenres of narrative.

What are the types of narrative genres?

The subgenres of the narrative genre are the following: the short story, the novel, the legend, the myth, the tale and finally the fable. Click here to learn more about each of them.


It is a type of text characterized mainly by its short length in which it represents a historical event, real or fictional around a story. It is often associated with the short story, although it is possible to identify the relato because it is usually shorter in length. They follow the narrative structure of beginning, knot and denouement, however, in its narration in orality, it is possible that it does not follow the scheme strictly.


This type of genre arises as a way to give an answer to many of the phenomena of the universe and disturbing for the human being. Myths are the representation of the cosmovision of a figure, given that around its construction it is possible to identify the system of beliefs that compose it. The myth offers explanations about the origin of the world, the origin of the gods and their relationship with the human being and the earth.


It is a type of narrative that prioritizes fictional content that includes a moralizing intention. It is an expression that arises from oral literature and is characterized by the type of characters used, since in most cases these correspond to animals with human characteristics. It tells stories that are the product of the imagination and allows the observation of the customs of a specific town or area, assuming a pedagogical aspect focused mainly on children.


It is one of the most important and widespread narrative genres that consists of a literary creation through which an event that is capable of causing a type of emotion in the reader is narrated. It can narrate real or imaginary events, contains a relatively simple plot that the reader can easily understand and usually includes few characters in its composition. It has a great variety of formats according to its length and subject matter.


It is a literary creation that is written in prose and can narrate both real and fictitious facts. It is characterized because it has a much more complex plot than the short story, which is why it reaches a greater length in its extension. Its plot is almost always linked to the temporal extension, where the events that happen are subject to how they are prolonged in the time of the story. The writer can focus his work to different purposes.


It refers to a form of narration that comes mainly from the oral tradition, through which events of human beings or supernatural beings are told, reason why it can narrate a real or fictitious story that includes a series of marvelous aspects. These fantastic elements become a reflection of the folklore of the area from which it originates, which is why it is often defined as a popular narrative. It is characterized because it is transmitted orally or in writing.

History How did the narrative genre emerge? 

The narrative as a genre arises in the Middle Ages, having as a starting point the European continent. At first, the narrative genre is expressed from compositions such as historical facts and memories of events of great relevance within the traditions and that often had the presence of captains or heroic characters for the time.

However, it is in Greece where the narrative begins to consolidate from the works of Homer, incorporating his works to the genre although it will have particularities that may well be included in other literary genres. Thus, the works begin to be made based on the primary narrative proposals, which motivate new writers in the creation of works that allow them to consolidate the narrative genre, which was nourished by the reading of the works. It is important to take into account that the transmission of stories was done orally, hence the existence of the first narrators in the figure of those who transmitted the information.

After the appearance of writing, written narration was born, which was left in the hands of people who had knowledge of reading and writing. Around 1440 the printing press was born with Gutenberg, which allowed the reproduction of the Bible, whose intention was to replicate the teachings and soon the first printed texts began to appear.

What is the narrative genre

Characteristics of the narrative genre

The narrative describes events from a certain time, which will be related to conditions, spaces and customs within the plot and that influence each of the characters and therefore, the story that is told. It is distinguished mainly by the descriptions of characters, environments, time and events.

The author

In the writing of the work, the content is not properly linked to the author’s thoughts and these are not expressed in such a way. However, it is possible that his ideology and thoughts are mixed with the plot or the behavior of the characters, but in most cases the author tries to be subtle, so that it is not in plain sight for the audience, but the character himself expresses.


Often the narrative will take facts of everyday life for the construction of the story, so that in many cases the writer reaches the exaggeration or deepening of certain aspects. Imagination is used.


As we have mentioned, narrative is characterized, among other things, by the use of highly descriptive language. This language is essential to nurture the story it tells, since it makes it easier for the reader to create images of what is happening, as the narrator can act in a way that allows the reader to become a witness of what is happening when he familiarizes him with the entire environment in which the story unfolds.

Multiplicity of discourses

It is important to bear in mind that the narrative can be immersed in various discourses such as historical, cinematographic, poetic, journalistic, among others. This is precisely what has facilitated the consumption of texts that even touch on the ludic genre, another literary genre.

The conflict

The presence of a conflict in the narrative genre is crucial for the development of the work, since it is precisely in this knot of the story where decisive actions are developed to reach, later on, the outcome of the story. Here the characters will have problems to solve and they can be linked to destiny, as well as to other characters, society, nature, among other related topics that start from the author’s idea.

Function of the narrative 

The function or objective of the narrative takes place when the writer wishes to express or tell historical facts or real events, resorting to imagination and even exaggeration in the construction of the work. The author, in the explanation, proposes a point of view that can be expressed by the characters and that, in a subtle way, the reader finds immersed in the work. Proof of its result and function will be the perception of the message carried by the work.

We can also see narrative in media other than books, such as television, cinema or radio, where events are described by a commentator or journalist who is in charge of narrating what happens.

Structure of the narrative genre 

The structure or the way in which narrative works are constructed has essential characteristics, which are determinant for the course of events and for the author’s objective. It is made up as follows:


Also considered as an approach, it allows the reader to be introduced to the story from the presentation of the characters of the work. They are often presented in a specific situation or action, which may or may not be a conflict involving particular characters of the work in a defined time and space.


This is the moment in the conflict when the events of force that were raised during the play’s introduction begin to unfold. Here each of the characters performs actions to achieve the goal that is proposed, they go through obstacles, debates and problem spaces previously proposed emerge.


It is the climax of the story, the final part in which, little by little, all the problems and conflicts begin to be solved for each of the characters until reaching a moment of peace between the events that have just happened.

Elements of the narrative

Elements of the narrative 

These are the main components of a narrative work. These are:

The plot

It refers to the set of events that unfold in the narrative work. They are events that are located in a specific time and space and that are presented to the reader through a simple structure. This location allows the reader to be able to situate himself and it is there where the story to be narrated emerges. This element is often present in narrative texts such as novels, stories and tales.


This is the physical framework in which the characters are situated. It links geographical and also social spaces that will be the venue in which the actions occur. It is divided into two types; real space and fictional space. The real space will be the place that exists in reality, while the fictional space will be invented or produced by the imagination. On the other hand, there are the exterior spaces that refer to outdoor places and the interior spaces, which refer to closed places, inside houses, for example.


It is the period in which the story takes place. Two very important elements of time must be distinguished: external time and internal time. The first refers to the period in which the story is set, linked to specific events, wars, empires, customs, etc. The second, internal time, focuses on the duration of the events narrated, since it can take a character’s whole life or even develop in a few hours.

Origin of events

The narration can have a linear time, that is, followed in chronological order, or it can begin to be told in the middle of the story, play with the tenses by jumping to the past and returning to the future or even mix moments of the story.

The narrator

This figure may be present in the story or may be outside the story. He is the one who will narrate the actions. When the events are narrated in the third person, he does not participate in the events; when he is one of the characters, he narrates the story in the first person, often being the protagonist of the story or one of the closest witnesses to it. Whereas, when it is an external narrator, it will be an omniscient narrator, who has full knowledge of the story as well as of the characters and their feelings, emotions and thoughts.

The characters

They are those who are part of the story being told, so that each of them will have an important role in the work. The characters perform actions, have dialogues and within the text they must be described in terms of general information such as their age, gender and other elements that will be revealed in the use of dialogues.

Particularly, among the characters, the protagonist stands out, who is the one to whom the story happens and carries most of the weight of the actions, there is also the antagonist, who will be the person who opposes him. Other secondary characters may also appear.

The style 

It refers to the artistic and particular characteristics of the work, these may be given from the literary genre and subgenres, the type of language used by the author for the composition, fractured compositions or formally followed, the personality of the artist, the reflection of the characters, the expressiveness, the intention of the literary work, originality, among other aspects.

Most important authors and works

As we mentioned, Homer is one of the most important authors with his work The Odyssey as an example of epic, although other works such as The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe as an example of a short story, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy as an example of a novel, The Song of Roland as an example of a canticle, The Hare and the Tortoise as an example of a fable, among many others, also stand out.

At present, the narrative or narrative genre is one of the most widely used for the production of literary works, and also one of the most important in world literature due to the large number of works that have been created. For its part, it has a fundamental role in society, since it is possible to enjoy a story as a communicative fact, which expands its range of action that is not limited to the text, but touches other media.