The Nighttime Novelist...accomplishes more in about 240 pages than a dozen other "how to write" or "craft your novel" books have ever done.

--Helen Gallagher/Blogcritics




Saturday, April 23, 2011

What My iPod Teaches Us About Storytelling

I'm entirely beat, so I've enlisted the help of a guest blogger--my 30 gig classic black iPod--to do tonight's entry on storytelling and narrative arc.

30 gig classic black iPod, take it away.

[iPod churns, smokes, threatens to crash]

How many protagonists should a novel have?

[iPod says: Though you'll occasionally see novels with what seem to be more than one protagonist, by and large a novel requires one set of eyes through which the reader sees the world and understands the story.]

What must a reader think of the protagonist?

[iPod says: Sympathy, pathos, pity. Those are your choices of what a reader can feel for the protagonist. Anything besides these--including hatred, disgust, etc--and the reader will likely put the book down.]

What’s the one thing a protagonist must have in order to have a story?

[iPod says: A plot arc--and a character arc, which runs parallel to the plot--is made up of motivation, conflict, resolution. It begins with motivation...a protagonist must want something in order to have a story, and that thing he or she wants has to be put at risk. PS: Love that Bo Diddley beat.]

What must the protagonist feel about this desire?

[iPod says: The protagonist must have no choice but to follow through in order to fulfill the desire or meet the goal. If that's not the case, if he's not compelled to chase after it, then is the desire clear enough? Does the reader understand why the protagonist must meet the goal? Does the protagonist himself? For that matter, does the author?]

Why doesn't the protagonist simply fulfill the desire right off the bat?

[iPod says: This means conflict. Oh, and RIP Kurt Cobain.]

What must the protagonist be willing to do to fulfill the desire?

[iPod says: Don't be ashamed that this song is on me. It's not a bad album.]

What must the protagonist increasingly feel in his quest?

[iPod says: I would have gone with Queen and David Bowie if you'd worded the question differently.]

Why doesn’t the protagonist simply walk away when the conflict gets to be too much?

[iPod says: Remember that junior high dance when this song was playing?]

What happens to all that tension when the story finally reaches the climax?

[iPod says: You have several versions of this song on me, you flannel-lovin' Gen-X hippie.]

What happens if the protagonist meets the goal?

[iPod says: I only wish I could've worked this whole album into my answers.]

What happens if he doesn’t?

[iPod says: What I mean by this is, even an ending where the protagonist fails to meet the goal can be fulfilling, if that's what the story calls for. Get the hankies ready.]

What should the reader feel either way, win or lose?

[iPod says: (I Can't Get No) is in parentheses, so ignore that part.]

Bonus question: What’s the most embarrassing thing in your library that nevertheless rocks?

[iPod says: Probably this...

...or this...

or this...

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