Friday, February 4, 2011

Plot Diagrams: Emotion and Causality in Narrative

One of our main authorial decisions in writing is where and when to "start" a story.  Building tension requires us to choose a starting point which is close enough to the conflict to hold the reader's interest, and yet still distant enough from the climax that the story can be be driven continuously forward.
Workshop and Reading Sign-Ups
We'll take care of the first round of workshop and reading sign-ups (Unit I - Fiction).  The two students from each section workshopping next week can have a little extra time to submit workshop pieces.

Assignment Clarification - Online Forums
(Once the website has been released from the evil clutches of Murphy...)

For student workshops, everyone is required to post comments by Thursday night for Friday's in-class workshop.  Comments are not required for the Online Presentations, but you will get bonus credit for toward your participation grade when you do comment.  (Especially if they're interesting comments which encourage other students to post responses).

A vocab quiz with this week's terms will be included with Monday's quiz.

Discussion - Plot and Story Diagrams
Freytag's Pyramid is the most popular form of plot diagram - it charts out the development of conflict in a story, assuming the story has a beginning (exposition), rising action which leads to a climax, and (some) falling action which leads to resolution of the story and an emotional denouement.

A second form of mapping is the story diagram.  This diagram is somewhat less informative regarding narrative structure because it only takes into account the events and not their emotional impact on the conflict.  However, it helps to differentiate between the sequential order of events (story) and the emotional order of the narrative's presentation (plot).  I can be particularly useful when a story is confusing.  If the story does not clearly specify the order (and hence causality) of events, then we cannot be sure how the emotional impact of one event informs our understanding of past and future events in the story.

Take the six stories we've read for this week.  I would like each group to draw two plot diagrams on the board - one for the plot, and one for the story.

Which stories are linear?  And which are nonlinear?  Which ones involve intense emotional change for the main character?  At what point in the story do these changes occur?  At what point in the plot?

Welcome - Perspective in Narrative - Plot Diagrams


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