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Updated by Kirsten Imani Kasai on Feb 17, 2016
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Narrative Structure Diagrams

Narrative Structure Taxonomy
MM (multimedia model)—an interactive structural model that uses audio, visual, or technological components
Narrative structure catalog—an expansive list of identified narrative structures
ND (narrative diagram)—a drawing, illustration, chart etc. of a narrative structure
NM (narrative model)—refers to specific narrative formats (Arrow, Mosaic, et al.)
Structural Model—a tactile, three-dimensional representation of a narrative model

1

Arrow (timeline)

Arrow (timeline)

A chronological narrative that proceeds without interruption through the time frame of the story.
(A happened, then B happened, then C happened…)

_Examples:

  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolfe_
2

String of Pearls

String of Pearls

Combing arrow and cluster narrative styles, a sequence of scenes or chapters tied together by a common plotline.
Subplot=pearl, main plot=string. �(Most episodic television series are structured this way. Each episode has its own subplot while the main plot continues throughout the entire season).

_Example: _

  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
3

String of Pearls: hero's Journey

String of Pearls: hero's Journey

One can contextualize this form within other narrative frameworks, such as The Hero’s Journey, as described by mythologist Joseph Campbell.

5

Steam Train

Steam Train

CHP 1--Engine: establishes tone, POV, setting, themes. Pulls the weight of the book.
CHPs--Train cars: call to action, conflict, rising action, climax, etc.

Chapters linked through transitions (shared idea, image, continuing plot, next-step action, etc.)

Caboose: summarizes plot, concludes the story with final idea, image, statement or question.

6

Parallel narratives

Parallel narratives

Two or more narrators tell a tale in sequential/chronological order. There may be overlap but each narrator moves the story significantly forward on their own.

Examples:

  • _Affinity _by Sarah Waters
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • Ice Song and Tattoo by Kirsten Imani Kasai
7

Dual, Multiple or Shared Narratives

Dual, Multiple or Shared Narratives

Two or more narrators who provide conflicting perspectives or recountings of the same events.
Shared yet divergent POV.

Example:

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
4

Mosaic or Cluster

Mosaic or Cluster

Loosely related chapters, vignettes, short stories or sections that when taken together, comprise a thematic whole.
They may share imagery, words/phrases, characters, scenery, etc. In this model, the tiles are the chapters and the shared elements are the grout.

Examples:

  • Stay Awake by Dan Chaon
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
8

Winner Take All

Winner Take All

A group of people compete for a prize (a tangible object or survival). One by one, they are eliminated due to their strengths/failings, natures and choices/behaviors. Sometimes, the tests are engineered by an outside force (e.g. heirs compete to win a house, teens spend the night in a haunted house or graveyard, first one to make it to sunrise wins).
Winner wins through circumstance, luck, perseverance or smarts.

Examples:

  • Legacy by Peter Straub
  • Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

Films: The Gray, Lifeboat, Titanic.

9

The Unreachable Obstacle

One person attempts to achieve a goal that cannot be met or attained via a series of tests (gates).
Protagonist eventually comes to understand that she “can’t go home again” and ends journey OR keeps searching despite all info/evidence to the contrary.
Each test/gate represents a learning opportunity.

  • Kirsten Imani Kasai is the author of four novels: The Book of Blood Magic, Ice Song, Tattoo, Private Pleasures, and a short story/poetry collection Rhapsody in Snakeskin. ​Her short fiction, poetry, essays and articles have appeared in numerous print and online publications in the USA, Canada and Romania. Kirsten is the publisher and editor of Body Parts Magazine, a journal of provocative horror, erotica and speculative fiction. She holds an MFA and certification in the teaching of creative writing from Antioch University​. Between writing her fifth novel, Grrrlstown (feminist Utopian lit. meets the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and developing a curriculum for teaching narrative structure modeling, she ​leads writing workshops. She lives in San Diego with her family.

    WEBSITES: www.KirstenImaniKasai.com ​and www.BodyPartsMagazine.com

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