Narrative Theories

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IRIS Wiki - Narrative models/theories

Narrative Theories

Narrative models/theories

Narrative Theories Template

Narrative theories are both numerous and diverse. While it is clearly difficult, if not impossible to cover all of them in the present review, our goal was not to focus on a subclass of theories, such as “narratology” for example but instead to cover a larger spectrum of theories. The criteria for including a theory in the following review were:

  • The theory opens interesting perspectives for IS, or
  • The theory has been used/mentioned in publications related to IS systems, or
  • The theory suggests some formalization.

15 theories are described so far, distributed over three main groups: dramaturgy, classical narratology and psychological approaches. Selected theories include both renowned academic work and applied practical guides for narrative writing that might not fit academic standards. Since our final goal is not theoretical but practical - "How to improve IS systems?", every approach, as soon as it is justified, is worth considering. Only linear theories are considered here, we haven’t underestimated the contribution of existing non linear narrative genres to IS, we will simply study these non linear theories and practices later on. For each theory, the following information is provided:

  • Authors: Who were the main authors having developed this theory. When possible, several authors who developed similar approaches are grouped together.
  • Histo-geographical placement: When and where did this theory appear?
  • Type of story: does the theory describe a specific type of story (i.e. fairytales) or can it be generalised? What is the set of stories described by the system?
  • Parent Theories: What existing theories were used as a starting point, inspiration, and foundation?
  • Child Theories: What theories where inspired from this one?
  • Brief Description: synthetic and accessible description of the theory.
  • Relation with Interactive Storytelling: How can this theory help build IS systems?
  • Systems/Tools using this theory: Systems that are explicitly based on this theory and a short description indicating how the theory is used in the system.
  • Links: Links towards other sites that describe the theory.
  • References

As a result, when reading and navigating among the theories, the reader should grasp both the current status on how narrative theories relate to IS as well as perspectives on how new narrative-related mechanisms could be implemented to explore new avenues in IS.

Drama models

Aristotle's definition and characterisation of the dramatic actions.

Five-act model (G. Freytag, 1863 - Freytags Pyramid of a dramatic structure)

Three-Act Paradigm (S. Field, 1979 - Model for screenwriting)

TV series


Vladimir Propp's morphology of the folk tale

Roles and processes (C. Bremond)

Actancial model ( E.Souriau, A.J. Greimas)

Narrative grammars (A.J. Greimas, T. Todorov)

Narrative units (R. Barthes, 1968)

Five codes of analysis (R. Barthes, 1977)

Textual cooperation (U. Eco)

Theory of possible worlds (M.-L. Ryan)

Tellability (M.-L. Ryan)


Figure as narrative structure (G. Genette, F. Chen)

Ethical dimension

Discourse/story relation (G. Genette)

Hero's journey (J. Campbell)

Perception models

The Mood-Cue approach to the analysis of filmic emotion (Greg M. Smith)


Non linear theories

Theatre of the Oppressed (A. Boal)

Improvisational theatre