Part of the CBC Massey Lectures series, Northrop Frye originally delivered his series of six talks on the value of studying literature, collective known as The Educated Imagination, in 1962. The lectures have been collected in a book published by Anasi. By virtue of being a student at the University of Toronto and being taught by professors who were in turn taught by Frye himself, the ideas of this book are a part of my critical DNA. Before going back to read The Educated Imagination again this week after a decade of recommending it to all and sundry, I don’t think I fully appreciated exactly how formative Frye’s ideas are to me and my approach to literature and critical theory. Continue reading “READ 001 – The Educated Imagination – Northrop Frye”
In out most recent chat, Luke and I discussed how reading books or articles about storytelling is all well and good, but it would be more beneficial to us as creators, and indeed to our community as a whole, if we were to actually reflect on the content of these books.
To that end: enter a new kind of Central Pillar article. READ articles will allow members of the Adventures in Storytelling community to reflect on writing that is about writing. Much like the PLAY experiments, we don’t want to put too many formal restrictions on what READ looks like, but expect READ to be filled with insights on big thinkers, discussions on new ideas, connections to existing Adventures in Storytelling content (especially Right Pillar themes), thoughts on the many philosophies of storytelling, and indeed, whatever else you want READ to be about!
During the first ever Adventures in Storytelling Suds and Stories (a real life meetup where community members hang out to enjoy company, beverages, and talking about stories), Amanda described Stephen King as ‘supernaturally talented,’ which is both incredibly apt and an incredible pun. I can’t give you any proof, but I feel that King’s talent flows from an innate understanding of a simple storytelling truth (a truth that he puts on to the lips of Roland in The Dark Tower series): the joy of a tale is in the telling.
As we explored in Part I, a story is a space where the audience and the author meet and together generate meaning. Stories possess a wonderful quirk that complicates this idea, though. Once a story is told, it continues to exist independent of the person who originally did the telling. That might mean it was codified or recorded in some way, or it may just mean that it lives on in the memory of a person who was listening, but a story becomes an entity unto itself. Continue reading “The Joy of a Tale is in the Telling Part II: Magic Beans”
Here at Adventures in Storytelling, we live by a simple idea: how a story is told can be as interesting as the story itself. In more concrete terms, meta commentary on storytelling is itself a space for some really interesting revelation. If it wasn’t, I’m fairly certain the central pillar would collapse.
I do think there is a good reason why most works of literature don’t have a DVD extras-sytle commentary or an author’s website pulling apart the entire outline of a plot, though. Stories should be able to stand for themselves, and as I’ve said before, what an audience brings to a work is just as important as what the authors pour in. The space where author and audience meet is where meaning is generated. The existence of Adventures in Storytelling notwithstanding, giving the audience too much meta commentary can undercut that spontaneous generation of meaning. Our project is looking at the process of creation for other creators, and the dilution of emergent meaning is accepted in order to show how the work itself is created. Continue reading “The Joy of a Tale is in the Telling Part I: Meta Commentary and Shared Story Space”
I’m going to be honest with you. It’s a bit rich of me to be spewing wisdom like “‘show don’t tell’ is reductive and potentially crappy advice” and “ideation is a key to success” because I have absolutely no formal training in writing whatsoever. Everything I know about stories comes from the other side. I have a lot of training in critical thought, and I’d like to think I’m at least adequate at it.
As a result, I’ve made some assumptions about writing in the past. When I make those assumptions, Luke (who does have formal training as a professional writer) usually manages to say something that surprises me. Often it’s insightful wisdom or highly organized, process-based logic, but he did throw me for a loop once. When I went off on a tangent about whether a character would be able to see mountains from where they were standing in a comment on a section of Charlotte’s Journey, I learned that Luke was largely unfamiliar with verisimilitude. Certainly not the concept itself, but the word. I always sorta figured it was writing 101 stuff, but there you have it. Continue reading “Adventures in Terminology: Verisimilitude”
The character sketches were a collaborative effort; a rough road map to understanding our characters. As we continued to co-write Charlotte’s Journey, this was a way to keep the “shape”, or a baseline, of a character in mind; so we didn’t create two competing arcs as we wrote first drafts.
Blue was introduced to give our party of adventurers a martial ability that neither Charlotte nor Raul posses. In some ways, he is the avatar of the barbarian hero that Charlotte so idolises, but he also makes it necessary that she practice her diplomatic skills by endlessly teasing Raul. Blue is really there for colour; he’s comic relief, deus ex machina, and occasionally a sounding board for a lesson Charlotte needs to learn. For all that, we still love him.
This is our alliterative second look into the mind of our aptly-named villain. By this point, Vilnius sees an unexpected flaw in his plan (Charlotte’s escape), and begins taking increasingly villainous actions in order to stop her. This early in the story, it’s just setting Sandy Lane on our heroes, but Vilnius’ actions will get more intense when we revisit him in later sections. “A Vile View of Vilnius” was difficult and generated so much discussion between Luke and I that I wrote an entire article devoted to it. It’ll tell you why I didn’t quite get Vilnius right, despite some really killer lines from our villain in this section. The comments in this section are particularly enlightening, and show a map of a developing conversation that eventually landed us at the conclusions covered in the linked article.
Last month, I wrote a section of Charlotte’s Journey that is told from the perspective of our villain, Count Vilnius. When we eventually assemble the jigsaw puzzle and put all these sections in order, “A Vile View of Vilnius” should be the second chapter dealing with our big bad, but in draft format this section was the first time Luke and I had privileged access to Vilnius’ thoughts. It was also the first time I had a chance to write the character at all.
The constant refrain when writing Charlotte’s Journey has been “do something simple very well.” The simple part is so that Luke and I are working in a frame we’re familiar with. The very well part is there so we challenge ourselves in that frame. Although I’ve encountered a number of difficulties writing Charlotte’s Journey, writing Vilnius was perhaps the most difficult so far. As it result, it may also have been the most rewarding. Continue reading “Writing Wrongs: Doing Right by your Villain”
This sections marks an important transition for our characters. Charlotte and Raul must climb the wall of the river valley and in so doing move from Raul’s world into Charlotte’s. It is a turning point in the narrative, so naturally, we wanted to bring a villain in. Sandy Lane has the kind of martial ability that Charlotte and Raul lack, which means we needed Blue as a foil (spoiler alert, I guess). Sandy proved the regular challenge—a character with no gendered pronouns(and no obvious gender neutral ones, either!) I think Blue really shines here—I feel very comfortable writing his character and I think he’s a lot of fun. Giving him some agency, demonstrating why he is a survivor, was a big change from his first appearance, but I feel it works and justifies his acceptance into the team dynamic. Continue reading “CC.021.J.2 | Sandy Lane vs. Team Good Guys: Round 1”
Although I would give Harry Potter and the Cursed Child a bit of a mixed review overall, I’d still say that I liked it. Perhaps my favourite part of the play has nothing at all to do with the actual content, though. From the release of The Prisoner of Azkaban on, I have had a Harry Potter tradition. After reading the new book in a single sitting (unless I had to sleep for a few hours), I would immediately turn to The Philosopher’s Stone and read the entire series through, including the new addition. I never expected to be able to preform this ritual another time, and I’m grateful Cursed Child exists simply because it gave me a great excuse to spend a couple weeks with my nose stuck in some of my favourite books. Continue reading “Harry Potter and the Perfectly Plotted Novel”