Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Narrative - The Perspective Behind Stories

Narrative is a carefully defined term with many applications.  At it's core, narrative is about telling a story - and mastering this art is essential for success in fiction.

Welcome - Perspective in Narrative - Plot Diagrams
Broadly Speaking
In thinking of narrative, consider the early oral traditions of narrative.  Before writing was as widespread as it is today, stories were passed on from generation to generation by storytellers.  Narrative, in this instance, comes from the narrator.  The shifts in the bard's tone, the choice of which details to share first, the reiteration of the moral at the end - these are all aspects of the narration.

Flash Fiction: The Unicellular Approach to Narrative
Any given narrative is composed of many parts. Sentences, paragraphs, and chapters build up the subplots of longer stories.

One advantage to studying flash fiction is that it allows us to quickly and easily break down the elements of a given story. The stories are short enough that we can put them under the microscope in a way that's impossible for the novel or even most short stories.

The second advantage of flash fiction is the tight focus on language. The shorter work allows an attention to detail normally reserved for poetry. Because so few words are employed, each word must carry significant weight.

Vocabulary for This Week

Story vs. Plot
Story is the linear chronology of events. Plot, on the other hand, is the order in which these events are told in the story. In a linear narrative, the plot follows the causal order of events. In a nonlinear narrative, the plot "jumps" across time, revealing events in an order other than their sequential order. This is done in order to build up the emotional tension.

Discussion: Consider the four stories read for today. Which ones are linear? Which are nonlinear?

Perspective: Using Emotional Remove to Give Your Story Substance
In this course, I would like everyone to master using the past tense 3rd-person limited point of view. The limited point of view means simply that the reader only sees what the main character sees. The advantage of using past tense is that it implies a certain chronological remove from the story = this complements the emotional remove of the third person.
Discussion: What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of 1st vs 3rd-person? Of limited vs omniscient? Of present vs past?

Tonight's Assignment: Three Flash Fiction Pieces, 100-250 words each
Question: Why is a 2nd-person present story included here?

Welcome - Perspective in Narrative - Plot Diagrams


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