4 Components of Narrative Rhetoric

March 6, 2020

There are four components to the art of storytelling, or in other words narrative rhetoric. All of your favorite filmmakers, hell, even religious figures and texts use forms of narrative rhetoric to heavily influence our beliefs and values, as well as entertain us.

Why the hell does narrative rhetoric matter?

It's important to understand narrative rhetoric because it allows us to understand and explore any story thrown at us into further depth. Usually, when you're watching or reading something good, there are reasons as to why that is. This would be helpful to those that never know what the fuck is happening in a movie or story, also to those that just want to understand storytelling on a more intellectual level. Hopefully, these notes help you broaden your insight as to what goes on behind great storytelling.


There are four different parts of narrative rhetoric: Plot, Scene, Characters, Theme.

1. PLOT

The plot is the storyline, which is crucial to any story. This is where there's usually conflict that arises with a little side of tension. Without tension, you don't really have the audience on their feet. There's always a climax unless it's a boring story. No story does well without having a climax or tipping point.

After the climax, there's usually a resolve which signals towards an end. If there's a cliffhanger, that usually signals that the story is to be continued. For example, Star Wars: The Last Jedi fucked with fans at the end of the movie when we saw Luke Skywalker for 5 seconds, all for the movie to dramatically end.


2. SCENE

This is the time and place that the story takes place. If the writer is good, the audience will feel like they're legitimately in that time and place.

3. CHARACTERS

This is where you have your protagonist vs. antagonist. You get to see how the characters of the story enact or read a message. We often find ourselves comparing the characters to ourselves, that's because of good writers making the characters relatable. Often, if there's a heroic-like character, we imitate or follow that character more.

4. THEME

The theme is the message or point of the story. I remember I watched Jack Black's Bernie, it was a horrible film (really funny, but like really bad) largely due to there being no real point or theme.

There you have it, you now know the four components of narrative rhetoric. There are other forms of narrative rhetoric that I'll share at a later time.

SOURCES

Rowland. Analyzing Rhetoric: A Handbook for the Informed Citizen in a New Millennium. Kendall Hunt. 2019.

Irwin. “Narrative Rhetoric” Class lecture, Rhetoric and Social Influence. California State University of Sacramento. February 26, 2020.

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