Reflection Pool

Time for another weekly summary!

For quick and easy reference, this week I:

Although it was articulated as “What is a [digital] story?”, the running theme of this week seems to have been looking at how stories are structured, from learning about Vonnegut’s shape theory to figuring out how to structure a story merely with five images. Even in looking at a Daily Create from the Inspire section, we examined how they told stories – what drew us in, what was the story arc, whether explicit or implied.

Ultimately, I think that structure comes from the creator. In telling a narrative, our own biases, opinions, life experiences shape that narrative. Sometimes this is deliberate, sometimes not.

In looking at the shape of The Hunger Games, for example, the author made a choice to have Katniss begin the story unhappy. Relatively satisfied with her life, yes, but not happy. Others in Katniss’ world were happy. Some of the residents of District 12, certainly residents of the capital. But Suzanne Collins chose to tell the story from the perspective of Katniss, a bitter, disillusioned young woman whose story shape begins on the negative side of the scale and only goes down from there. She is a fitting heroine for a dystopian novel, but Collins could have chosen someone else as the heroine, or as the narrator.

And the shape of this story, its misery, the struggles Katniss faces, the negative outlook on the future, has a wide appeal. Vonnegut theorized that the shapes of stories were reflective of cultures. And maybe the popularity of The Hunger Games reflects our interest in reading about kick-ass heroines. Or maybe it reflects our own dismal views of the future in the age of a recession, global warming, and evening news that reminds us daily of war, crime, and natural disasters.

In any story, whether digital or not, we always have to consider how narrative structure shapes the tone and ultimate message. Though they many not pay attention to the structure, our readers and viewers will (hopefully) pick up on that message. Their own biases, life experiences, etc, etc, will affect how they interpret that message. But a well-shaped story can help that process.

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