Observation journal — getting meta with story structures #2

The observation journal has been well-suited to testing and revising theories and approaches (as well as coming up with ideas, practising scales, etc). This is another reason the reflection/conclusion panel at the bottom of these journal pages is so useful!

This page was a continuation of a previous exercise — using story structures as ideas (see: Getting meta with story structures).

I looked at frame stories (e.g. having characters explicitly move between different levels of story; frames that call stories into existence), 3(+) act structures (e.g. an explicit staginess/interaction with the format of a play), and turning points/gear changes (stories about velocity, etc).

Experiments which don’t go as planned are still informative. Things I realised:

  • Deliberateness is really the thing.
  • I found it easier to literalise principles (as previously) than specific structures (as here).
  • However, it’s an AWFUL lot easier to literalise structures in art than writing: frames and triptychs, sequential art, etc.
  • A while ago, I used to like reading Rules of Story Shapes, strict principles of narrative structure, etc, probably trying to find a shortcut. Now, those structures feel too static and rigid as a guide to writing. They feel more like splints (and perhaps training wheels) than organic structures. That might be why I find it difficult to literalise them into stories. (This is personal! Lots of writers I know plan to a structure and do so very effectively.)
  • Nowadays, broad principles feel more natural. They are flexible: guidelines to steer by, the voice of experience, the instinct that shapes a story. (This is why I like three-mood story shapes.) And they’re usually more metaphorical. This is perhaps why it’s easier to make them into literal aspects of stories. (Diana Wynne Jones does this brilliantly, especially in her more Gothic stories, such as Aunt Maria and The Time of the Ghost.)

Art/writing exercises (there are several activities at the end of the previous post on getting meta)

  • Find an interesting narrative structure outside the field you’re working in. E.g. if you’re a writer, find an intriguing painting; if you’re an illustrator, ask around for a book with an unconventional approach.
  • Then sketch out a story/picture that translates that approach. Can you take a narrative framing device or peculiar approach to time and create that effect in an illustration? How would you structure a story in a way analogous to a Renaissance altarpiece?

Finally, here is Lulu (not mine). She is an Irish terrier, and you might be familiar with her from Angela Slatter‘s Instagram.

2 thoughts on “Observation journal — getting meta with story structures #2

  1. Pingback: Observation Journal — Getting meta with story shapes | Kathleen Jennings

  2. Pingback: December 2021 — round-up of posts | Kathleen Jennings

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