Many authors equate a strong narrative to a roller-coaster, a thrill ride with countless ups and downs, sharp twists in the track and blind drops that keep the participants on the edge of their seats. To a degree this is a strong analogy for the perfectly balanced narrative.
Any narrative composition, even life, can be easily compared to a thrill ride like a roller-coaster but while this is sufficient in most cases it's not entirely accurate.
The reality of a carnival ride like a roller-coaster is that the participant is aware of what's in store for them. The track is easily visible, like a reader selecting a specific genre but in all instances, the strongest compositions emulate life. This is where the carnival ride diverges greatly from the single track roller-coaster ride.
Where a narrative does follow a path it is not a singular track bound for conclusion. A narrative, as life, is predicated on following choice and consequence. A singular choice may cause the track to drop from under your feet or climb to great heights. When characters in a narrative are subject to their own choices and the consequences of those choices, the audience can better relate than if it was an on-rails ride.
The individuals in a narrative are not merely characters designed to support the main attraction like props on a roller-coaster ride to add atmosphere. Ever individual is a product of their choices and the more that these connections are explored, the more the audience becomes invested in the composition. A strong narrative, like life, is not a restrictive roller-coaster but a full carnival of thrills. Every path is hidden,every ride, adventure and event concealed until the appropriate choices are made.
“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”
― Stephen King, On Writing