A narrative structure is an important element of any television-based storytelling. It refers to organizing story concepts, ideas, themes, facts and other attributes in a coherent manner that emotionally engages viewers and listeners. Developing structure requires several drama attributes like an act. Act in drama is the major division in the play action. Drama focuses on character and emotions. Characters express moral complexity and ambiguity throughout the drama narratives. Drama is always more developed than stereotypes and it is easy for the characters to make a mistake or completely fail their mandate. In fact, drama stories raise more questions than answers and in most cases, it is up to the viewers to interpret them.
A structure of a drama is mainly determined by the nature of the content on different stages. Exposition is the initial stage or introduction of a drama narrative. Scholars argue that exposition is the tone setting of the drama. The element expresses the theme of the drama depending on the opening remarks of an actor. There are various types of themes which drama can be based on. First, drama may be about external struggle. For instance, the struggle of man versus another man is an example of an external struggle theme in drama narratives. Internal struggle theme in a drama may be like that of man versus himself about a given dilemma that the man is going through. Man versus society is a good example of moral struggle theme where the man is usually under the society`s scrutiny over various standards. Man versus nature is a perfect example of drama exhibiting struggle against fate. Most of the television-based dramas most likely fall under these forum categories as far as the theme is concerned. The audience is able to identify the type of the theme from the development of the story (Gibbs 33).
Exposition is followed by rising action. Rising action is various actions or activities that the narrator involves himself or herself in immediately after exposition. Drama experts assert that these incidents drive drama towards the most interesting parts of a play. The rise entails events that define the nature of the narrative. The nature may be a happy mood or tragedy. Happy mood signifies a good start for the narrator. The activities in this case favor the narrator. On the other hand, a tragic beginning involves bad beginning for the narrator. Activities seem to be falling apart for the protagonist. These two scenarios are common and most important in shaping viewers` effect early enough.
Rising action increases gradually towards the climax. Rising action is one of the most crucial components of story. The whole plot of drama depends on the climax of the drama. The climax is the turning point that influences the protagonist. Usually, the rising action entails bad profile for the protagonist. The climax unfolds the events that will happen to the protagonist. The story begins by favoring the protagonist and revealing the hidden truth. The protagonist seems to achieve the goals he or she has been trying to achieve since the beginning of the narration. At this stage, the protagonist may fail on few occasions to avoid a predictable plot. However, according to Madden achievement of objectives is more common at this stage than failure (124).
On the other hand, if the story has good introduction and rising action, climax results to a bad turn of events. The protagonist begins suffering and his or her activities becoming disappointing as the story develops. The hidden weaknesses of the character unfold in after climax which in most cases the opponent utilizes to try defeating the protagonist. The audience continues sympathizing with the protagonist. Comic scenes are common at this stage to relieve the viewers from rising emotions.
Falling action is the immediate action after climax. The stage is marked by escalating conflict between the protagonist and antagonists. Various activities unravel during this stage that stresses the weaknesses that discovered during the climax. The two opposing sides become more vigorous with an aim of outdoing their competitors. The stage is further characterized by events of intense suspense. Suspense is important in creating the eagerness to continue watching the story. Secondly, the suspense creates a thinking environment where the audience asks themselves multiple questions on how the story will end up. This falling action marks the most interesting part of the story. The polarized audiences loudly oppose each other as the drama ensues. Protagonist`s disappointment is highly criticized by the supporting audience and the opposing audience expresses jubilations (Gibbs 41).
Denouement or resolution is one of the stages of drama structure. This stage marks the end of the falling action and the conclusion of the story. The stage is also the actual scene that signifies the end of the drama. Drama resolution is characterized by tension release for the viewer and end of anxiety. The stage might also be characterized by reunion of the protagonist or other characters with their family or their associates. If it is a comedy, the resolution is conclusion that the protagonist is better than the other characters. If it is a tragedy, a conclusion is a catastrophe that protagonist finds himself or herself in.
Inciting incident is an important characteristic of drama. This is quite important especially if the drama is composed of a terrifying storyline. The audience of such a drama exhibits emotional storyline that makes the audience emotional throughout the drama. It is important to introduce an exciting incident to relieve the tension building among the audience. In a serialized drama, development is gradual (Madden 133).
Climactic dramatic structure is one of the oldest structures in the history of drama. The drama plot begins later in the story and not in the beginning as in case with narratives. The plot is expressed in a manner that shows that the plot is actually realized. Most dramas will reach the plot when all the stories of the past converge at a single climax. The character exposition makes it necessary for the audience to understand the attainment of the plot. Usually, the time span of the story is compact since the plot begins late in the story. Secondly, climatic drama has limited scenes, characters and locales. For instance, Greek drama usually has only five episodes with two episodes separated by choral interludes. French neoclassical drama contains only four to five acts. However, today’s drama is limited to only two acts. Drama experts argue that limited scenes lead to limited locale important for exceptional viewers’ effect.
Climatic drama is composed of tight constructions. This entails careful development of the drama plot with no loose ends. Furthermore, this drama is sequential with a leading to b and then to c like in detective stories. This creates a sensible follow up of the events articulated in the drama. The chain of events in climatic drama is interlocked. Therefore, there is no way the character can stop some activities and the drama proceeds to competition. Drama actors assert that such tightness is important in that it results to well-developed plays.
Episodic structure is the second major type of drama structure. The drama is characterized by early plot in the beginning of the story. Actions in episodic drama are not compressed instead actions spread as the drama progresses. Episodic drama entails increment of people, events, places on which drama activities are based. These characters can show coverage of vast locations over long periods of time. Drama research shows that some locations in episodic drama as well as some characters get lost. There also other incidences were short scenes happen and disappear shortly afterwards (Ames 143).
Episodic drama may exhibit parallel plots and subplots. It is this parallelism which replaces compression to create expansion. A parallel plot acts as reinforcement to the main plot. Contrast and Juxtaposition are common in episodic drama. This includes use of short scenes that are alternating with longer scenes. It may also involve interchanging of private and public scenes. Crossover from one group to the rival group is common in episodic drama. This is mainly used when the characters are expressing the issue of defection or betrayal. Finally, episodic drama may involve exchange of serious with comic scenes. This is important in relieving the audience from cumulative effect since this is common in these types of drama.
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Drama is also organized in a serial structure. This entails use of grouped episodes that make up a series. The central theme of the serial drama holds several episodes together. Sometimes there is little connection between adjacent episodes. However, the protagonist creates connection different episodes. Television story telling through drama is organized into maximum four seasons. Each season is composed of around twenty episodes. Single episodes are played daily on TV at a designated time as agreed between the writers and the television stations. There is a huge suspense in a serial structured drama storytelling (Madden 165).
Series and episodes are important concepts in a narrative system. Both make up narrative stories though there is a difference between them. Episodes can standalone implying that they contain narratives regarding a particular story profile. However, standalone episodes may connect with each other later in the series. On the other hand, a series has a continuous storyline on a specific topic. There is the protagonist on whom the story is centered. The protagonist must feature in different episodes though representing different characters.
Secondly, characters in a standalone episode change throughout the episode. Characters play different roles within the same storyline. At the initial stages the character is the center stage of the story though this might change later towards the end of the story. On the other hand, characters in the series move from one episode to another performing almost the same role. Therefore, different characters have different roles throughout the series. The characters work closely with the protagonist and, in most cases, are controlled by the protagonist to achieve specified roles or interest. The destiny of various characters in series is at the mercy of the protagonist. In that case, the characters are very loyal to the protagonist for the benefit of emerging victorious.
A story arc is an important component of episode-based storytelling. Many scholars define story arc as an extension of a storyline in story telling structured in an episodic nature. The concept is highly integrated in series-based television storytelling. In some cases, story arc entails a sequence of comic series and television episodes. The characters in a story arc align their acting based on one impetus. In television storytelling, common impetus includes the ongoing storyline. The arc may last for several episodes or seasons and on few occasions the whole series. Story arc is common in soap operas, primetime, or other shows that exhibit continuity of the storyline in a structured manner.
Storyline experts argue that story arc must not span consecutive episodes. Sometimes the story may become of non-urgent concern to the character participating in the arc. At this point of storytelling, it may be necessary for the writer to introduce a non–arc episode before the arc gains relevancy in later episodes. These scenarios mainly occur when an episode in the storyline or several episodes contains other stories. It may be necessary for the arc to be suspended to tell other stories before continuation of the story. The inserted episode commonly referred to as the self-contained story does not change the significance or flow of the story arc. The stories mainly introduce characters to be used by the narrator in development of the story arc. In other cases, the self-contained story may introduce or extend character development of other characters previously used to create the main storyline. In some cases, writers may introduce stand-alone episodes to improve the viewer’s mood in a moody story arc (Rodman 100).
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It is worth noting that episodes forming the story arc cannot be run disorderly as the attempt always stops the storyline flow, hence creating incredible story development. Soap operas were the earliest arc-based television storytelling in the history of television broadcasting. However, the development has been extended to other story profiles as well. The development began in the 1990s when Saturday morning cartoons and Half-funny Sitcom television storytelling programs were introduced. Many story writers were of the opinion that casual viewers were not able to comprehend the shows. This was simply because the programs contained arc-oriented storyline hence it was difficult for viewers without experience to understand the story arc. Hill Street Blues was the first American vernacular TV storyline to use story arc (Ames 177).
American television entertainment transformed within the last two decades. Earlier television storytelling involved real competitions, crime drama, domestic comedy, and news bulletin. During the last two decades, television storytelling use high narrative complexity that has replaced the traditional conventional series and episode storytelling techniques used before. Popular shows like West Wing, The X-files and Arrested Developments are modern examples of television narrative in the USA. These films formed the basis of the modernity and complexity we experience in the television industry today. Scholars argue that the complexity has improved competitive advantage in the television industry in the USA and beyond.
Several US television narratives have received international appreciation. Many narratives have drawn academic attention following their innovative complexity in the manner in which the themes and the structure of the narratives are founded. Under the ideology of Quality Television, people have recognized serial drama as one of the most valuable narratives in American television. Narrative theory was adapted from literature to film industry which introduced audiovisual television storytelling. However, specific application of the theory to serial storytelling has been limited. Despite being heavily used in television media, serial television stories structure has been fundamental in representation of specific constraints in the industry. The suitability of serial drama is influenced by how the short-term and long term storylines interact. Additionally, it depends on how the storylines are distributed in various episodes and seasons making up the story. Many scholars have suggested multiple serial television drama structure. However, up to date there is no established theoretical account of the specific narrative structure (Rodman 125).
Narrative complexity in the US dates back to the 1990s. Media experts and researchers commonly refer to the era as the television complexity age. Complexity has reformed contemporary television storytelling in almost all US television broadcasting stations. However, the complexity has not replaced the conventional storytelling forms. Viewers today experience series and episode-based drama and acting on TV. In fact, half of the television storytelling is still in form of the conventional storytelling. For instance, nearly every television station has set aside designated time each day to air soap operas and standalone episodes of television programs. The narrative complexity is therefore not a threat to the conventional methods and the artists venturing in the formats should not worry about becoming obsolete (Phillips 99).
The theory of film narration defines narration as an orderly and temporarily presentation of fictional events. The presentation is in a structured manner hence creating an interesting perception for the viewer or listener. However, the structuring of the narration goes beyond a mere order of events as they occurred. Structuring of verbal narratives involves high language expertise like use of figures of speech, syntax, jargon, and the appropriate vocabulary. The theory asserts that film narrative simply manipulates observable medium characteristics and individuals to create a subtle meaning with specific effects of interest. Therefore, film production technology incorporates acting, directing and camera services to cover fictional events and develop pre-planned effect to affect the viewers.
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The narrative theory assumes that narrative is a basic television strategy. Use of the theory in the television industry is slowly complying with process and experience. Narrative theorists study matters that focus on narratives. For instance, narrative theorists on film production study television based theory to help them understand various dynamics used in the field. Those dealing with series and episode production concentrate on audiovisual affairs based on the narrative theory. The theory is necessary in determining the accurate approach that will reach more viewers and create a captivating effect in the television industry (Phillips 121).
A research shows that narrative theorists draw their experience from different sources. But the main method applied by theorists when dealing with television narration is literary studies. Additionally, television narration requires sound philosophical ethics and cognitive science. They also need gender theory that explores how they will incorporate gender sensitive scripts in the television content they provide.
Television narratives can entail many types of narratives. For instance, narratives based on fictions content, oral narratives, narratives based on specific cultures, novel-based narratives among others are suitable for television narration. However, a producer must comply with the media content broadcasting act that regulates the standard of the content aired on public television. In general, an average narrative should be watched by a standard family without offensive episodes especially those sexually explicit. However, the government allows the producers to rate the narratives based on the suitability of the audience. Consequently, the producers may brand the narrative as good for family viewing, 13 years and over, 21 years and over among others. The rating suggests the possible content of the narrative. In most cases, the narration with many sexual scenes is aired late at night when children are probably asleep (Phillips 135).