Four Ways To Think About Narrative Architecture

I really enjoy Chuck Wendig’s blog terribleminds; and every time I read a post of his, I end up thinking about how I read differently. Not how I read differently than other people. Differently. As in, that I think about something new while I’m reading…not like I’m thinking about penguins when I typically thought about puppy dogs while reading fifty shades of… Differently, like when you start looking at the structure of the story, or the novel, or a poem; and you didn’t do this before.

This particular post is about narrative architecture – story structure. How a story takes shape and what the shape is (or isn’t). Most importantly, I think, is his argument that a story is not just two dimensional, but it is 3D and probably even 4D.

As a professional reader, this is an incredibly fascinating concept because all of a sudden, everything I read has more depth than it had, say, this morning. Not just the fiction, but the non-fiction and the news articles as well. Considering everything we read as having movement and an architecture suddenly makes assessing the value of something we read happen in a completely different light and scope than before; and thusly, changes the idea of what’s relavent and what’s not.

The article below is an intriguing read; almost a must-read, if you are an avid reader and want to enhance the way you process what you are reading. Chuck Wendig is a writer and his target audience is for the most part writers. That said, I think readers can learn a helluva lot from writers’ blogs, so I’m sharing this link. Also, I think Wendig has an amazing talent for description. Description combined with his awesome word usage makes me laugh throughout every article I read. The thing you must know before you click the link – sometimes Wendig drops F bombs in places you least expect them.

So, put your big kid underwear on, be prepared to laugh your head off at the images he will conjure for you and click the link.

Here’s the Article: Story Shapes: Four Ways To Think About Narrative Architecture

And if you stare at it really hard, you will see Jesus flying a hang-glider into Mecha-Hitler’s mountain fortress, firing a pair of TEC-9 submachine guns. You might need some LSD to see that. That’s usually how I see all the Magic Eye paintings — I just drop acid and stare. “I see the connectedness of all things as represented by a spinning fractal wagon wheel in space,” I say. And the guy next to me says, “I see a dolphin.”

That guy didn’t get the good acid.

But I digress.

Regardless of whether or not you see Gunner Jesus, what I want you to see is a narrative shape. A structure for your story. At the simplest level, this structure might be expressed as: action, inaction, action, inaction, and so on. But at the more complex, more meaningful level, what it means is that you have these peaks and valleys, right? The peaks are moments of tension, conflict, action, pain. The valleys are moments of temporary resolution, release, dialogue, development. The peak is the sharp intake of breath; the valley is the exhalation of that breath. A peak steals the oxygen; the valley returns it. (And a story requires oxygen because oxygen is what fuels the fire that will sometimes be required.)

This gives us rhythm.

We need rhythm in our stories, just as we need them in our sentences.

This article was written by: Rachel Baker – Click to follow on Twitter.

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