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The Story Of Computational Narratology


In the study of narratives, the structure of a narrative can be described in terms of two aspects [16]:

(1) Content of the narrative often called the story, fabula or histoire
(2) Exposition or style in which the story is narrated often called discourse, or discours or syuzhet.

Fabula. Fabula is the chain of events (actions, happenings) along with existents (actors, characters, items in the setting). Characters in a fabula can have traits (physical, moral, etc). These traits can evolve or change over the course of the narrative. Traits can be derived from certain cues in the text or from the actions the character performs. They can also be derived by association with social rules. Or alternatively, a fabula can be thought of as a chronological ordering of events in the story. It contains all the factual elements of the story ordered by time of occurrence of the events.

Syuzhet. Syuzhet refers to how the events of the story are narrated. The syuzhet is in turn, modeled as comprising of two components: the plot and the exposition. The plot refers to the main “story structure” of the narrative, while the exposition refers to the style in which the story is narrated. Style of narration here can be described under various characteristics. A few of them are listed below:

(1) Narrator Identity – The narrator’s identity is the answer to the question “Who speaks?” in a narrative. If my friend is telling me a story, he/she is the narrator
(2) Narrative Distance – A narrator can vary the narrative distance between his/herself and the characters in the narrative using different forms of speech. Eg: Indirect, Narrated and quotation
(3) Narrator Perspective – A narrator’s perspective or the point-of-view is the answer to the question “Who sees?”. A narrator can take the perspective for a character for parts of the narrative or he/she can be omniscient, “seeing” into the minds of one or more characters
(4) Narrative Levels – The narrative could have multiple narratives embedded in one another like in case of The Thousand and One Nights or we can also have multiple narratives that weave in and out of each other.
(5) Narrative Order – The order in which the events in the fabula are narrated. For example, flashbacks, retrograde, etc. There are seven ways in which we can draw relation between the order of narration in the discourse and the order of events in the fabula

A narrative can be modeled by trying to analyze either the fabula or the syuzhet or both.

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