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"I saw the bird flattened on the ground outside my door . One of the kindergarten child walked toward me slowly, crying. That's when I knew it was time to act."

The very brief narrative above occurs amid myriad spheres of social relations. These relations are not all apparent, but understanding narrative meaning requires understanding narrating as an interactive process. As researchers we enhance our Methods if we know how to read narratives as complex social processes. This openi11g narrative expresses a sequence of two past events.1 The narrative involves action ("walked," "act") and consciousness ("saw," "crying," "knew"). From the little bit that is there, one can imagine possible settings: "Kindergarten" suggests a school context; characters include the implicit narrator "I," apparently in a position of responsibility and power ("it was time to act "). This bit of narrative also sits amid possible plots- some kind of conflict on a school playground - with characters, the "child," the "I" character, and the "bird" (depending on how the story develops). This brief narrative seems to convey life quite naturally with a story of an encounter involving a person, nature, and an institution-a child, a bird, and a teacher, school principal, or other adult-within a broader series of imaginable events. The ending "it was time to act" implies that the bird's demise involved something more than disease or old age, compelling the "I" character to intervene. Details like the dead bird, the crying child , and the urgency to act hint at some sort of trouble, piquing the reader's desire to know what happened. That 30 words invoke so much meaning demands a dynamic narrative approach.


This work originally appeared in Daiute's "Narrative Inquiry: A dynamic approach," published by Sage Publications.

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