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A narrative, story, or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional (memoir, biography, news report, documentary, travelogue, etc.) or fictional (fairy tale, fable, legend, thriller, novel, etc.). Narratives can be presented through a sequence of written or spoken words, through still or moving images, or through any combination of these. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare (to tell), which is derived from the adjective gnarus (knowing or skilled). Narration (i.e., the process of presenting a narrative) is a rhetorical mode of discourse, broadly defined (and paralleling argumentation, description, and exposition), is one of four rhetorical modes of discourse. More narrowly defined, it is the fiction-writing mode[dubious ] in which a narrator communicates directly to an audience. The school of literary criticism known as Russian formalism has applied methods that are more often used to analyse narrative fiction, to non-fictional texts such as political speeches.
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Oral storytelling is the earliest method for sharing narratives. During most people's childhoods, narratives are used to guide them on proper behavior, cultural history, formation of a communal identity, and values, as especially studied in anthropology today among traditional indigenous peoples.
Narrative is found in all forms of human creativity, art, and entertainment, including speech, literature, theatre, music and song, comics, journalism, film, television and video, video games, radio, game-play, unstructured recreation, and performance in general, as well as some painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, and other visual arts, as long as a sequence of events is presented. Several art movements, such as modern art, refuse the narrative in favor of the abstract and conceptual.
Narrative can be organized into a number of thematic or formal categories: nonfiction (such as creative nonfiction, biography, journalism, transcript poetry, and historiography); fictionalization of historical events (such as anecdote, myth, legend, and historical fiction) and fiction proper (such as literature in the form of prose and sometimes poetry, short stories, novels, narrative poems and songs, and imaginary narratives as portrayed in other textual forms, games, or live or recorded performances). Narratives may also be nested within other narratives, such as narratives told by an unreliable narrator (a character) typically found in the genre of noir fiction. An important part of many narratives is its narrative mode, the set of methods used to communicate the narrative through a written or spoken commentary (see also "Aesthetics approach" below).