Writers often use various literary techniques to draw the reader into a story and help create a narrative that is compelling and otherwise interesting. One such technique is the use of a frame story. When such a technique is used, the writer will create a story at the beginning that will not generally be the main focus of the rest of the narrative. Instead, this initial story will be used to set up, or frame, the second story, which usually has greater emphasis or importance. The frame story has been used for centuries and remains popular in various forms of literature as well as other media such as television or film.
An example of a frame story might involve a writer developing a main character or narrator who begins to tell a story about himself in the present. This character will often address the readers directly, or otherwise make reference that his or her role is one of storytelling, not necessarily one of action in the story. Once this narrator or character has been introduced, he or she will generally begin to tell another story, thereby essentially inviting the reader to come along with him or her on this narrative journey. The frame story structure may allow the writer to give a reader context for the main story before launching into it.
The narrator can also be used as a tool for a frame story by setting up the reader for various short stories. The narrator may appear periodically throughout the text to make references, clarify events, or give expository information that will prepare the reader for the next story. This technique is very often used in film and television, though the roots of the technique can be found in various texts throughout history.
The frame story is well demonstrated in Washington Irving's short story, "Rip Van Winkle." The main focus of the story revolves around the character, Rip Van Winkle, and his experiences in the Catskill Mountains, but the narration is taken up by a character called Geoffrey Crayon. The creation of this Crayon character indicates to the reader that it is not Irving telling the tale of Rip Van Winkle, but instead Geoffrey Crayon, thus removing the actual author from the storytelling altogether as if entreat the reader to consider the narratives real and therefore more compelling. The reader is essentially hearing the tale of Rip Van Winkle through the frame or vision of Geoffrey Crayon.