Feb 042013

In this video Kurt Vonnegut comically and relates a simple method for analyzing stories, briefly mentioning how these stories together reflect Western Civilization’s preferred story shapes.  I feel that this method is too general, and doesn’t encompass the subtleties that create intrigue in stories.  It also focuses on only one character, and changes in fortune over time.  Though many stories focus on the fares of one individual, others involve and develop more than one character – this is especially the case with multi-seasonal TV shows or serial novels with long story arcs.  These long-form stories have a primary character, but theirs is not the only fortune that changes.  Another flaw is the ambiguity of the Beginning-Electricity axis.  The notation of this direction and the manner in which Vonnegut explains it does not allow for the interpretation of stories that are not told in a time-linear fashion.    The nature of storytelling is indeed linear – moments happen in sequence to create meaning, but often the storyteller invokes flashbacks or omits information to create suspense or to manipulate the perception of the story recipient.  An example of this is Severus Snape’s lengthy flashback at the end of book 7 remedying the prolonged friend or foe debate created from a dearth of information on his motives.  How, then to portray the linear change in perception which develops the story but does not immediately influence the fortune of any character?  Indeed, I am being too harsh.  My criticism comes from a perspective of structual analysis, in the interest of creating compelling stories of my own.  Vonnegut is not presenting a framework, but a contour.  Because it is so general, the method of analysis can be applied to any story.

In the spirit of Vonnegut:

G                                                            *
|                                                            *
|                                                          *
|                        ****                        *
|                      *      *                      *
|                   *          *                    *
***          *               *                *
|    *        *                  *             *
|     *     *                    *           *
|       ***                      *        *
|                                    *     *
I                                      **

A quiet but beautiful daughter lives happily with her father, even though they are of below-average socioeconomic status.  In exchange for a life-saving favor, her father reluctantly sends her to live with a terrifying monster who lives like a lord.  After some time with this monster, the girl realizes that his terrifying appearance conceals a humble soul and becomes friends with him.  Learning of her father’s advancing age or illness, she leaves the fancy manor and returns to the humble village.  The monster is distraught without her and is brought to the brink of death.  After caring for her father, the girl with an attractive exterior and caring heart returns to the monster and saves his life by professing her love.

A genre of digital storytelling that I am particularly interested in is webcomics.  Some webcomics are not exclusively digital and exist also in print form, but others make use of the digital interface and exist solely on the internet.  An example of this kind of story is The Wormworld Saga by Daniel Lieske.  Though not yet complete, this is definitely a digital story because it makes use of the scrolling nature of a browser window – a format named the Infinite Canvas by Scott McCloud.

 February 4, 2013  Posted by on February 4, 2013 musings  Add comments

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