Narratology: How Plots Are Structured in Films

Jul 4, 2021 ~ 10 mins

Narratology: How Plots Are Structured in Films

When discussing narration, we always consider who the author is and how he or she chooses to tell the story. As in literature, films have an implied author. However, unlike in literature, the implied author in films is not solely the filmmaker but also the producers, directors, writers and even the actors themselves, as they are also responsible for creating the story in the film as a whole.

Story refers to the subject matter, that is what the film is about. It’s the dramatic events in chronological order. The plot includes how the author decides to tell the story, particularly the method he chooses in structuring the story to fit his or her aesthetic and perspective. Peter Brooks best defines plot as “the design and intention for narrative, what shapes a story and gives it a certain direction or intention of meaning.”

The spectator is, you guessed it, the audience and they are an integral part of narration. The spectator is always actively interactive with the film’s narrative and play a part in understanding the film’s messages and intentions.

Films the utilises realistic narratives often lack “style”, as realists prefer to portray the world as transparently as possible without distortion or mediation. Realism is a style that has an elaborate set of conventions that aren’t obvious. Realist narratives are patterned and manipulated, albeit the filmmaker tries to bury it underneath the surface “clutter” and apparent randomness of the dramatic events. Realist filmmakers order loose, discursive plots, with no clearly defined beginning, middle or end, nor is there an obvious conflict.

Documentaries and avant-garde films feature nonfictional narrative. Although they don’t tell made up stories or have plots, they are just as structured as their fictional counterpart. Instead, they report facts, real people and events occurring in the existing world. The structure in nonfictional narratives depend on the instincts of the filmmaker and they tend to follow a particular theme or argument. It is often simple and unobtrusive. Documentarist prefer to focus on the subject matter rather than the style of the film.

About The Author

The Film Post Author: Maria Lumabi
Hi I'm Maria Lumabi!

A self-declared film aficionado, Maria is one of the main content creators for The Film Post. Maria’s love affair with films and literature began at a young age when she first saw Star Wars: A New Hope. She believes that films are not only a popular form of entertainment but also a means of telling human history and culture.


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