Teaching Literature
  Classical Linear Narrative

                          (Mainly Film and TV. )

Because classical interactive narrative follows many of the rules of linear narrative, it is useful to examine the key points in classical linear narrative--the narrative type that dominates film and TV.

Exposition: Setting up Character

The beginning of a linear narrative usually is devoted to exposition, setting up the setting, the character and the character's goal. Classical linear narrative film and video is character driven. It is the character who grabs our attention and whose situation we are drawn into. Most successful film and video today clearly define their characters early in the piece. Who are the characters? Where are they from? What do they want or need and why do they want it? What the character wants usually provides the action story of the film or video, why they want it provides the motivation for the actions and the underlying emotional story.

If we are going to care about the story, it is important that we identify with these characters and their needs. Identification can be achieved in a number of ways, including casting an appealing actor, creating sympathy for an underdog, and having the character do positive things. The best way to
achieve identification, however, is to develop the character so that the audience clearly understands the character's needs.


Once the writer knows the character and their goal, then he or she can start the character on the way to achieving that goal. The writer next introduces conflicts or obstacles to achieving the goal.

The three basic types of conflict are:

person vs. person

person vs. the environment

person vs. self

Once the conflicts begin, then each conflict or obstacle should be more challenging than the last obstacle so that the story rises in greater intensity.


Finally the story nears the peak of intensity and a final event jacks it up to the climax, which is where the character either achieves their goal or not.


The resolution wraps up the story after the climax. Sometimes the emotional climax (as opposed to the action climax) of the piece can be included in the resolution. In most stories, the character changes or travels a character arc. For example, they may start out the story shy and end the story full of confidence.

 Page Created on October 5th, 1998
  Last updated on October 5th, 1998
   Copyright (C) 1998 by Nada AbiSamra.

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