What is a Narrative? Definition, Examples of a Literary Narrative

Definition of narrative: A narrative can be defined as a story.

What is A Narrative?

Narratives are writings that tell a story. These stories may be fictional or nonfictional.

Examples of Narratives

Night written by Elie Wiesel is a memoir that is a narrative of Wiesel’s experience during the Holocaust. This book tells the story of the struggle he endured while being held in the concentration camps during World War II.

Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game” is a narrative that tells the story of the protagonist’s, Rainsford, encounter with the man-hunting General Zaroff when he is washed ashore of an unknown island.

Modern Examples of Narrative

Here are some modern examples of narratives:

Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City is nonfiction, but it is written in narrative form. The book tells the stories of two events that occur concurrently in Chicago, Illinois: The World Fair and the killing spree of serial killer H. H. Holmes.

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is a fictional narrative that tells the story of the young protagonist’s journey to find his personal treasure. This novel shares a story that encourages readers to follow their dreams.

The Function of Narrative

To put it simply, narratives tell stories. The purpose of a narrative is to engage the reader in a tale that includes a clear beginning, middle, and end. Often times, a narrative’s plot will follow the Freytag’s pyramid to include an exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, and denouement.

Examples of Narratives in Literature

Narratives are used in various types of literature to tell a story. These can be found in plays, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Here are some examples of various types of narratives:

Epic poetry follows the narrative format and is often described as being a long narrative poem. An example of this would be The Odyssey by Homer. In this epic poem, Homer tells the story of the war hero Odysseus and his difficult journey home to a kingdom that has been overrun by suitors desiring to marry his wife. Once he is home, he must slaughter the men and regain his wife and kingdom.

Plays are also told in narrative form. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet tells the story of two ill-fated lovers who attempt against all odds to be together. However, in this play, fate cannot be changed, and this leads them to their tragic deaths.

Fiction is the most common genre that people think of when identifying a piece of writing as being a narrative. Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is an example of a narrative. It is the story of a young teenager who is crosses social boundaries of his Indian reservation by attending public school in a nearby town. This coming of age story depicts the struggles and successes this young man experiences while trying to achieve an education.

Nonfiction can also be classified as a narrative if it is told as a story. Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone is an example of this genre. It is nonfiction that tells the story of the Ebola virus outbreak.


Define narrative: In summation, narratives can come in many forms, but it is important to remember that they are writings that tell a story.

Final example of narrative:

  • Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five is a fictional piece that depicts the story of a war veteran’s struggle with PTSD. In this novel, the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, suffers from severe PTSD after WWII and claims he is able to travel through time.