Narrator (Erzähler): The “voice” that tells a story. Unless it is an autobiography, the narrator is not identical with the author/writer. Point of view



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Narrative Perspectives


Narrator (Erzähler): The “voice” that tells a story. Unless it is an autobiography, the narrator is not identical with the author/writer.

Point of view (Erzählperspektive): The perspective from which characters, events, etc. are presen­ted in a fictional text. The chosen point of view has a strong effect on the reader; for example, we tend to respond (reagieren
) more sympathetically to a character whose mind we “enter”, as we experience for ourselves what the character goes through. In the course of many stories the point of view changes to make reading more interesting.

First person narrator / limited point of view (Ich-Erzähler): The narrator is a character in the story and uses the first person singular (“I”). This narrator may be either the protagonist (Haupt­person
) or a minor character, who is just a kind of observer (neutraler Beobachter). As first person narration presents the action through the eyes of only one character, the narrator has a limited point of view. The reader tends to identify with the narrator.

Interior monologue (innerer Monolog): A particular form of first person narration which presents a character’s thoughts, associations and memories. Interior mono­logues often do not follow chronological order, since, when people think, their thoughts jump from one subject to another.

Third person limited narrator / limited point of view (personaler Erzähler/~s Erzählverhalten): The narrator stands outside the story and uses the third person (“he”, “she” or “they”) to refer to the characters but presents the events mainly from the perspective of only one character, i.e. he “limits” himself to the perspective of this character.


Third person omniscient narrator / unlimited point of view, often called omniscient narrator  [from Latin omnis
: everything, scire: to know] (allwissender Erzähler): The narrator can (at least theoreti­cally) look into the minds of all characters and tell us about their thoughts and feelings. He can look into the past, tell about the present and also anticipate the future.

Reported thought (erlebte Rede): Thoughts, memo­ries, associations, etc., are presented as repor­ted speech (third person, past tense) but without common phrases like “she thought”, “he wondered”, “she asked herself” etc. This technique creates the illusion of intimate access to a character’s mind.

Stream of consciousness (Bewusstseinsstrom): An attempt to convey the continuous, often un­struc­tured or even chaotic flow of thoughts and emotions in the human mind. Typical characteristics of this technique are incomplete sentences, sudden jumps or even complete lack of any traditional syn­tac­tical structure and punctuation.

Intrusive narrator (auktorialer Erzähler/~s Erzählverhalten): The narrator makes e.g. comments on the story, may reflect about the process of writing and may try to influence the reader. He sort of “intrudes” (stören, eindringen) on the reader and the reading process.

Mode of presentation (Art der Darstellung): The way a writer narrates events. The author can either tell the readers about events and their significance or show the reader what is happening. Most stories use a combination of both techniques.

Scenic presentation (szenische Erzählung): An event is presented in detail as it occured, i.e. a scene is described (= showing).

Panoramic presentation (berichtende Erzählung): The narrator tells the story as a condensed (ver­dichtet) series of events, summarizing in a few sentences what happened over a longer period of time (= telling).


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