A narrative or story in its broadest sense is anything told or recounted; more narrowly, something told or recounted in the form of a story, account or tale or the telling of a happening or connected series of happenings, whether true or fictitious, or a narration.
Narrative meaning is created by establishing that something is a part of a whole and usually that something is the cause of something else. It is usually combined with human actions or events that affect human beings. The meaning of each event is produced by the part it plays in the whole episode.
To say what something means is to say how it is related or connected to something else. To ask the meaning of an event is to ask how it contributed to the story in which it occurs. It is the connections or relations between events.
Meaning is a social phenomenon. Meaning is produced not only by individuals but by groups, communities, societies and cultures which maintain - through language and agreed understandings - knowledge of the connections between signifying sounds and signifying events.
Groups, communities, societies and cultures also preserve collections of typical narrative meanings in their myths, fairy tales, legends, histories and stories. To participate in a group, community, society or culture requires a general knowledge of these accumulated narrative meanings. The cultural stock of meanings are dynamic and are added to by new contributions from members and deleted by lack of use.
Narrative meaning is about connections. It links individual human actions and events into inter-related aspects of an understandable composite. Narrative displays the significance that events have for one another. (The anti-story makes explicit that events do not have causal connections between each other.)
The Contra Costa Juvenile Hall in Martinez, California, has 140 inmates ranging in age from eight to 40, imprisoned for arson, rape, murder and other crimes. A volunteer worker has initiated the reading by volunteers of bedtime stories over the prison loudspeaker -- on the basis that they calmed her children. The experiment has proved very successful and popular, sparking requests for favourite authors and promoting an interest in books.
Stories fill our lives in the way that water fills the lives of fish. Stories are so all-pervasive that we practically cease to be aware of them. "The products of our narrative schemes are ubiquitous in our lives: they fill our cultural and social environment. We create narrative descriptions for ourselves and for others about our own past actions, and we develop storied accounts that give sense to the behaviour of others. We also use the narrative scheme to inform our decisions by constructing imaginative "what if" scenarios. On the receiving end, we are constantly confronted with stories during our conversations and encounters with the written and visual media. We are told fairy tales as children, and read and discuss stories in school.