Chapter 3 – First Class, Part 5

For “Dance of the Happy Shades”, we talked about Munro’s varied sentence structure and how we could write a story as a stream of consciousness. In many of the stories we also talked about how the characters changes were shown. Sometimes, the change happened before the written story started and sometimes the change in the character was what the character wanted. There always seemed to be some change in the main character in her stories even if it was only the character’s acceptance of the status quo.

The shapes of the story were different based on the characters and the theme of the stories. The stories were always controlled, or flowed smoothly as Wolff’s stories did. His stories were action-oriented and constructed in a linear way with the effects following causes, while Munro’s were more about the characters thinking about their lives with the different parts woven together instead of appearing in chronological order.

Tension always seemed to be present, even at the beginning of the story. The way it was handled varied a lot. It could escalate smoothly, increasing with each motif or incident up to the climax, or it could be interrupted during the story. The character might appear to be achieving what they desire only to have a set-back that would make them obtain their goal in a different way. The climax could be that nothing changed.

Other craft issues might be determined by the general style of the author too. Were they written in a more conversational tone or maybe by a more authoritative narrator? Was the language formal or casual? How did the author use details? Were they presented as the story progressed like they were in Wolff’s stories or were they shown in flashbacks like Munro likes to use?

By comparing and contrasting different authors, we were getting a better idea of the range of choices that we could use in our own writing and I understood better than I’d ever understood before that there was a governing intelligence, a deliberateness to how all of the different techniques were employed.

We’d started our discussion about narrative design with Freytag’s Pyramid and Green World. At this point, we started talking about Todorov’s theory of narrative, how stories operated in cycles, how they move from equilibrium to disruption and back to equilibrium again. They were all viable ways to look at how to write a story but I seriously wondered how I would ever be able to decide between all the choices that were available to us.

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About marystojak

Mary Stojak has published numerous short stories, her latest will be published September 28th in Mystery Weekly.
This entry was posted in Graduate Writing Programs, Johns Hopkins University, writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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