Narration is the use of a written or spoken commentary to convey a story to an audience. Narration is conveyed by a narrator: a specific person, or unspecified literary voice, developed by the creator of the story to deliver information to the audience, particularly about the plot: the series of events. Narration is a required element of all written stories (novels, short stories, poems, memoirs, etc.), presenting the story in its entirety. However, narration is merely optional in most other storytelling formats, such as films, plays, television shows, and video games, in which the story can be conveyed through other means, like dialogue between characters or visual action.
The narrative mode, which is sometimes also used as synonym for narrative technique, encompasses the set of choices through which the creator of the story develops their narrator and narration:
- Narrative point of view, perspective, or voice: the choice of grammatical person used by the narrator to establish whether or not the narrator and the audience are participants in the story; also, this includes the scope of the information or knowledge that the narrator presents
- Narrative tense: the choice of either the past or present grammatical tense to establish either the prior completion or current immediacy of the plot
- Narrative technique: any of the various other methods chosen to help narrate a story, such as establishing the story's setting (location in time and space), developing characters, exploring themes (main ideas or topics), structuring the plot, intentionally expressing certain details but not others, following or subverting genre norms, employing certain linguistic styles, and using various other storytelling devices.
Thus, narration includes both who tells the story and how the story is told (for example, by using stream of consciousness or unreliable narration).