Storytelling Structures

Storytelling Structures

As things move along, I am developing new ideas about storytelling structures. This is all to help me see my way through writing my next book – The Blinding Sea: An Experiment in Biography.

In the latest WildTrekker podcast, Dreamworld VI, I mention: “The narrative structure in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is more like woven tresses, or a girl’s long, braided hair, or rope – it keeps moving along, and you keep coming back to familiar themes, then you lose sight of them, then you come back to them again.” Like the girl’s braids in the feature image at the top of this blog – much like the way my daughters did their hair, when they were young.

So, if I combine this narrative structure with the ones laid out in a previous blog, this gives:

1) The braided structure.

A ball of string

2) The linear narrative structure, like a piece of string, proceeding from A to B to C, in a long chain of causes and effects, one thing leading to another.

The Sun, care of NASA’ s stereoscopic measurements. This image shows the Sun’ s roiling surface and atmosphere at temperatures around one million Kelvin (1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit).

3) The idealized narrative structure, like a sphere, polished, without imperfections, projecting an impression of the world the way we wished it could be. This sphere is a perfect shape; nothing can be added to it or subtracted from it; every point on its surface is equidistant from its centre. (Actually, when I originally presented this idea to my university class, I brought along a small, royal blue ball I got at the dollar store.)

A Saharan Sand Rose

4) The complex narrative structure, multi-faceted, trying to be true-to-life, and representing personalities and events with layers and depth. Like a desert or sand rose – a riot of gypsum crystals facing every which way. This resembles the way John Dos Passos juxtaposes scenes and characters and story elements in the USA trilogy.

5) Beyond these four narrative structures, I can think of a fifth one – the story-within-a-story. The French term for this literary device is far more compelling than the English one – mise en abyme.

A story-within-a-story, or mise en abyme


The Narrator and the Film

August 19, 2020

Dreamworld VI

August 19, 2020

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