I'd like to put a name to the group of expectations established by the narration of a story, including explicit framing devices, verb tense choices, and the narrator's omniscience.


  • A story in diary or epistolary format implies that each day's entry or letter is informed only by events up to and including the time of writing.
  • A story told in limited first person implies that the narrator is or was privy to all the information being given to the reader.
  • Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda is about the long-dead ancestors of a first-person narrator. The action of the novel does not concern the narrator's discovery of the "facts", only these "facts" themselves. The action all takes place in past tense and, since the narrator is informed, with a near-omniscient viewpoint. Characters are described as being at a loss when confronted with problems, but the narrator knows how they responded.
  • The very first page of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight is in first person and references the narrator's arrival in Forks in the past. This creates the expectation that Bella, the first-person narrator of the subsequent story beginning with her arrival in Forks, will survive at least until the events on the first page occur.

There are of course no guarantees that these implications will be followed. In real life as in fiction, a diary entry can be edited days later. Plot twists revealing that there were multiple first-person narrators don't necessarily fail to make sense, but the point of them is to defy expectations. I'm looking for the concept/field of study/terminology that describes these expectations.

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