Basic Spanish Narrative Terminology

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Do you love the idea of taking your Spanish to a literature level? If so, you need to learn some basic terminology that relates to different genres. This lesson gives you basic vocabulary about the narrative genre in Spanish.

The Wonder of Narrative

Are you marveled by the stories authors tell you? When authors write a novel or a short story, they give you the opportunity to experience other lives and travel to places as you hold a book in your hands. This is a universal feeling when it comes to narrative. In Spanish, we use the term narrativa (nahr-rah-TEE-vah) to refer to the literary genre in which an author produces a story for an audience. Let's also learn how to say 'literary genre' in Spanish: el género literario (ehl HEH-neh-roh lee-teh-RAH-reeoh). In this lesson, we learn some basic terms of the género literario that is narrativa along with examples of the Spanish-speaking world of literature. Let's begin.

Basic Spanish Narrative Terminology

The most basic Spanish narrative terms can stick through examples. Let's learn terms as well as passages that explain each term.

Author and Narrator

When you read, you directly connect with a voice that tells you the story. The voice is created by the author of the story. These situations involve two first basic terms that are part of narrativa:

  • el autor (ehl ahoo-TOHR): the author (male)
  • la autora (lah ahoo-TOH-rah): the author (female)
  • los autores (lohs ahoo-TOH-rehs): the authors. Los autores is plural for a group of male authors but also for a mixture of male and female authors.
  • las autoras (lahs ahoo-TOH-rahs): the female authors. Use this for a group of female authors.
  • el narrador (ehl nahr-rah-DOHR): the narrator

Here is a simple definition for each term:

  • El autor es la persona que produce una obra literaria. (The author is the person who produces a literary work.)

Translation: Each author chooses the narrator that better suits their literary work.

Now, let's look at some examples of common sentences that use this vocabulary:

  • El autor de Cien Años de Soledad es Gabriel García Márquez. (The author of 'A Hundred Years of Solitude' is Gabriel García Márquez.)
  • La autora de Dos Palabras es Isabel Allende.' (The author of Two Words is Isabel Allende.)
  • Los autores de narrativa española contemporánea producen obras literarias muy interesantes.' (The authors of contemporary Spaniard narrative produce very interesting literary work.)

Let's now concentrate on el narrador with its definition and examples of sentences.

  • El narrador es la voz que cuenta una historia. (The narrator is the voice that tells a story).

Here are examples of sentences:

  • El narrador de Cien Años de Soledad es omnisciente porque es una voz externa que lo cuenta todo con detalles. (The narrator in 'A Hundred Years of Solitude' is ominiscient because it is an external voice that tells the whole story with details.)
  • Omnisciente, primera persona son tipos de narrador. (Omniscient and first person are types of narrator.)

Here, you have part of the opening passage in Cien Años de Soledad that illustrates the omniscient narrator.

Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el Coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que el padre lo llevó a ver el hielo. (Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Coronel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.)

Short Story, Novel, and Prose

Now, let's concentrate on a general term to then move on to some specific forms of narrativa.

  • la prosa (lah PROH-sah): the prose. Use this general term to refer to any story that is told through narration (not verse). Here is a sentence:
  • La novela y el cuento se escriben en prosa. (The novel and the short story are written in prose.)

Translation: In general, literary works in prose are more extensive than works in verse.

Now, let's learn the forms of prose this sentence refers.

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