(Header image from PDF provided by the tutor)

In our story workshop, we went over general story structure, examining the overall shape of a narrative, i.e. the beginning/middle/end or three act structure.

In this, there is initial setup, followed by rising action and the introduction of conflict to the story. The action keeps climbing until the point of greatest conflict, which is then resolved and the story winds down and ends.

While there can also be minor raises or falls in action over the course of the story, the general shape teds to be one of tension/conflict until the climax of the narrative.

We then went over the ‘7 basic plots’:

Overcoming the monster
The quest
Rags to riches
The voyage and return

(Aside, I do wonder whether something like the basic mystery/investigative narrative i.e. the ‘Whodunit’ ought to be classed as its own separate plot too. It’s the basis for an entire genre and I’m not sure any of the above quite cover the same ground…)

After going over this idea and some examples of each plot in films or other media we had seen, we were then given the task of putting together a story outline, starting with a character and setting and introducing an inciting incident. Rosy and I came up with the following:

Young female middle-management worker in a box factory. Her job is boring and she receives little recognition. She is cautious and unassuming, but smart and curious. She has aspirations to change her situation and break out of out of her monotonous daily routine.

Our inciting incident: one day, when setting up for work as usual, she is mistaken for another worker and given a file or note or some other item which makes her realise that the box factory is not what it seems and that something underhanded is going on. We decided there would be a small group of other workers who also would be uninformed, but that everybody else in the company knows what the truth of the shady organisation is.

We were also told to decide on an ending: for us, we decided our character would somehow or other end up in charge of the shady outfit herself. I can see it as being an Edgar-Wright-like dark comedy, maybe.

At this point, our groups split up, and we individually have to come up with the middle of the story and pitch out narratives in the next session. This will be in an upcoming post.

In the puppetry workshop today, we were looking at objects as metaphor. We settled around the theme of mental illness, taking a cue from Jack’s research, and picked objects to represent our personal impressions of them. I made some observations about a spoon and the distorted reflections is creates as a metaphor for distorted thinking, and a large dried out empty pinecone as a physical metaphor for the shape of anxiety, with its many repeating nodes and branching, twisting structure.

I liked Rosy’s examples of an empty jar expressing depression, and a spool of wool being slowly unravelled as a metaphor for dementia. Jack and Fendy had two different but very evocative expressions of objects acting together to represent obsession/compulsion and anxiety which I thought were very true to life. This was an interesting exercise in connecting the physical properties of objects with figurative meaning.