Log #4: Stories are like buildings…

images-2.jpegThe format of a story was always a mystery to me.  I always had trouble understanding where the character is in the climax, or the rising action.  But in the Week #4 post of Networked Narratives,  there is a video by Kurt Vonnegut which explains a lot.

In this small clip, he draws two lines on the top and the bottom of a blackboard.  Then he draws a line in the middle of the blackboard.  He explained that the top line is where the character is most healthy, happy, and rich.  The middle line is the tipping point for whether the character is going “downwards” or “upwards” in their emotional disposition.  The final and bottom line is where the character is unhappy, in despair , and sick in the story.  Then he used Cinderella’s emotion’s from the book  Cinderella and drew a line on how her emotions fluctuated throughout the story.  For example, when the Fairy Godmother appeared and gave her a dress, glass slippers, and a sweet ride, her mood rises up to above the center line.  When she dances with the prince, her mood rises even further!  But when the clock strikes midnight,  all of her special stuff disappeared.  The line rocketed downwards.  Later on when the glass slipper fits here feet, her mood once again rockets skywards.

This example helped me understand a character’s position in the story by looking at their feelings at the time of a big change in a good story.  After watching this video,  I can think from outside of the story to see how it is structured.  Stories are like buildings.  On the outside,  you can see the structure of the building, but you have no idea what is happening inside it.  When you walk inside of the building,  you can experience what is happening inside.  But maybe you can’t see where you are.  Stories are the same.

5 thoughts on “Log #4: Stories are like buildings…

  1. What a great analogy. Stories are like buildings. This has so many layers. Just like buildings there is a basic structure that must be there but unless the architect like the author plans it this way no two buildings or stories are the same. Great blog it was very interesting to read your ideas on this topic.

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  2. I’m glad to hear the video was helpful in explaining story structure…was thinking of showing my 6th graders but wasn’t sure if they’d appreciate it. Now I’m pretty sure they will. buildings as stories…yes…a little minecraftesque? Thanks for sharing!

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  3. That’s a fascinating metaphor, once I had not heard of before. The difference in being inside and outside a story, and knowing there is an infrastructure vs being close enough to touch the beams.

    Another variation, and one that might work too for 6ish graders (!) is the Story Spine
    http://www.aerogrammestudio.com/2013/03/22/the-story-spine-pixars-4th-rule-of-storytelling/
    http://www.aerogrammestudio.com/2013/06/05/back-to-the-story-spine/

    I resist most of the formula approaches to story writing but the spine is one I can recommend.

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