Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Linear Vs Spatial Narrative

Second part of Kim Barnes' handout at the July 2014 Fishtrap writing conference in Oregon:

"There are SO many ways to tell stories, but every story is, in its way, an argument. First, the story must argue for its own validity--its right to exist. That requires recognition on the part of the reader/audience of some melodic engagement--some 'base line' that we recognize as common to our narratival experience. The basic linear narrative is kind of like a number system or syntax or composition: 1-10, subject-verb-object, five-paragraph essay. It's the foundation on which everything is built and/or interpreted.

The next argument is that, in the absence of the linear 'melody,' something else (also recognizable and held in common) must come in to take its place. And that's the challenge for the writer/composer/artist/dancer. What is that 'something'?  Whatever it is, it must also be observable and have progression, movement, and pattern, with an inherent logic that we can follow, or learn to follow--be taught by the story to follow. If you can define/delineate that OTHER SOMETHING that takes the place of the 'melody' of linear narrative, you'll have an argument for a story that is outside of convention. But, no matter what, I believe it's all either STRUCTURE or ANTI-STRUCTURE that we recognize. Outside/between is chaos without chaos theory (because, of course, chaos as defined by theory is, alas, inherently linear and structured and observed and articulated via a rubric that is absolutely defined).

Giving yourself over to the simple narrative, the archetypal progression, is a kind of submission to the laws of the universe, in some ways. To EXIST is to abide by linear laws; to LIVE is to exist inside the spatial, and story must bring those two experiences together in a horizontal/vertical way. In my mind, this is the role of all art. But vertical movement expands, interrupts, deepens, slows, adds texture and space to an otherwise linear narrative. It's in the vertical movement that the 'why'--rather than the 'what'--of the story exists."

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