Sunday, February 6, 2011

Narrative: The Muscular Form of Stories

In fiction, narrative forms the bulk of the text.  It is the text of the action, setting, and character reflections.

A Scene versus Scene versus  Exposition
Just like a scene in a movie, a scene in a story consists of a single meeting between characters.  Generally, a scene involves the characters appearing at a place, and then leaving that place.  After the characters separate or appear at another place with differing goals, a new scene begins.

Scene - without the "a" - is the art of describing the interactions between the characters and the environment in which this happens.

Exposition, likewise, has subtle shades of meaning.  The exposition of a story is the first few paragraphs or pages, during which the conflict is laid out for the reader.  Exposition, on the other hand, is the art of describing information.  Unlike writing scene, which involves the mixture of action and dialogue, exposition primarily involves explanation.  It's very useful for revealing background information.

Today's Readings
 Write out a plot diagram and a story diagram for each story.  Identify the difficulties in drawing these diagrams, particularly for "The Yellow Wallpaper."

Conflict Drives Plot
Examine the characters and conflicts of these stories.  How do the desires and needs of the characters push each story forward?

Narrative Provides Context and Situation
The stories for today are very different from one another.  First, identify the relative ratios of exposition to scene.  Which story has more?  How does this affect the pace and tone of that story?

Scene Provides Characterization
Now look at body language.  Look at the actions (or lack thereof) taken by the characters.  What facets of character are revealed through these physical interactions?

Writing Exercise
Begin writing a scene.  Write action and action and action until I call out to switch.  Then rotate papers to the next person in your group.  Read the new paper, and then write dialogue.  On the next rotation, switch to exposition.  Repeat, repeat, repeat, alternating between scene, dialogue, and exposition.


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