Narration is the use of—or the process of using—written or spoken words to convey a story to an audience. Narration encompasses a set of methods, known collectively as the narrative mode, through which the creator of the story presents their work, including:
- Narrative point of view: the type of personal or non-personal perspective through which a story is communicated
- Narrative voice: the general "look" or "feel" of how a story is communicated
- Narrative time: the grammatical positioning of a story in the past, present, or future
A narrator is either a personal character or a non-personal voice created by the author to deliver information to the audience about the plot and, often, other narrative information. The narrator may be a person devised by the author as an anonymous or stand-alone entity; the author themselves; or a fictional or non-fictional character within their own story. The narrator is considered participant if he/she is a character in the story, and non-participant if he/she is an implied character or an omniscient or semi-omniscient being who merely relates the story to the reader.
The narrative mode encompasses not only who tells the story, but also how the story is told (for example, by using stream of consciousness or unreliable narration).
The narrator may be more than one person, to illustrate the story lines of various people at the same, similar or different times. This can be more effective than a singular point of view as it allows for greater complexity. In writing, narrative mode is considered an important literary element.
Narration refers to the way that a story is told, and so belongs to the level of discourse (although in first-person narration it may be that the narrator also plays a role in the development of the story itself). The different kinds of narration are categorized by each one's primary grammatical stance: either 1) the narrator speaks from within the story and, so, uses "I" to refer to him- or herself (see first-person narration); in other words, the narrator is a character of some sort in the story itself, even if he is only a passive observer; or 2) the narrator speaks from outside the story and never employs the "I" (see third-person narration). See also third-person omniscient narration; third-person-limited narration; and objective shot.