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Would You Like a Reading?


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#11 Red

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 12:19 PM

When plots become stories...
 
What is the difference between a plot and a story?
 
Everyone likes a good story. Stories are basically a chronological order of a group of events to give readers information about the characters and their events. A plot twists the order to give it an angle. A narrator can then put a tale into an order by cherry picking events to show cause, effects, and resolutions all to make the story more interesting. The very word 'plot' itself is a tricky one, isn't it? It could be defined as a conspiracy to distort a story. 
 
Try this next time you read a book for a second or third time. Take all the story elements and list them into chronological order. Are there elements in the plot not in the story? Is there a sub-plot that is not necessary? What about important story elements not included in the plot? Do you think the story could have been told without the careful plotting created by the author? Or was he sloppy in delivery? Did each part fit together to form a coherent whole? 
 
All stories begin with a beginning, middle and an end. Aristotle taught us that with his little book 'Poetics'. That dude has certainly left his mark in history in so many ways. Anyways, let's go into what he has to say about what makes a good plot stand out.
 
Here's an overview of Aristotles Poetics for reference:
 
 
Basically, Aristotle explains that we all learn through imitation. Listening to stories, looking at pictures, imitating gestures and words, etc. He believed it was a natural process and the result was to learn how to take apart stories and see how they were constructed.
 
The wheels always turn in a good story so we need A beginning. It introduces the characters, a setting, and a bit on their situation. The protagonist is introduced and we're given some details on his character. Everything is cool in the beginning. All is well and the reader is basically shown scenes that are stable in relation to the scenes surrounding the players. The beginning is a place where we get to know the people, places, and things and their characteristics. After a while an event will occur to throw all this into something interesting. Something to fling the characters off balance, launching them into opposite directions, and preventing or instilling in them a need for action.
 
This brings us to the middle. A place where everything goes awry. The characters are forced into new situations and face challenges so the reader can get a better sense of what the characters are up against. The antagonist is seen in a better light. Slowly being revealed to the reader. Things may get worse before they get better. What can happen next?
 
The ending is where all the conflicts seen at the beginning and how they're worked out in the middle resolve themselves. Most endings settle themselves either comically or tragically. Although, an open ending leaving some questions unanswered seems to be a trend. Leaving it open for sequels and spinoffs of all kinds. 
 
Keeping track of all the twists and turns in a plot can be difficult on your first time through a book. Learning the basics from 'Poetics' helps to keep it in mind though. Plus, it'll begin to make re-reading more rewarding, it'll add more discovery, and it'll ask more questions in the mind of the reader.
 
I'll close this post with a few questions for readers to consider:
 
What makes a great beginning?
Are there any stories, novels, or movies that grab your attention right at the start? Is there anything common?
What makes a great ending? Is it really the hardest part of the story to get right? 
What stories have powerful beginnings, a meaty middle, and a really shitty ending?
 
:Flying:

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#12 Red

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 02:23 PM

Master Plots and Genres
 
The Protagonist and the antagonist. 
 
The hero's journey (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings) and a stranger comes to town (Cat in the Hat). 
 
Master plots are recurring story types like the old rags to riches tale told over and over. These are called cultural myths or master narratives. Only the story patterns change. They are universal and tend to go in and out of style as culture dictates. Master plots look at cultural practices and historical trends. Discovering and re-discovering universal truths. At the very beginning of a story the reader will be thrown off balance and taken on a journey or introduced to a strange element or figure. A destabilizing event is the antagonist that begins the adventure. 
 
Master plots are not necessarily literately in nature. They can be framed in any genre. A genre is todays critical term defining a type or category. They also extend out into other media and ideological forms. Fiction and non-fiction are the two basic distinctions. Nonfiction gives us the facts and tells the truth. Fiction puts the reader in touch with their emotions and can enlighten all our efforts in learning the larger truths of life. Fiction provokes thought by delving into the universe and discovering old plots and re-writing new ones. Finding a larger story and framing a plot to make it interesting to the reader.
 
Genres are usually in opposition to each other. Or at least they're supposed to be. Westerns are not horror stories and science fiction tales of fantasy are not legal thrillers. Right? Well, sometimes it doesn't work out that way. It really doesn't have to. The master plot will tell the moral of the tale if it's told well and with an interesting framework. Crossing the lines and stirring the pot by mixing genres together is a common practice. Try this little trick when picking up an unfamiliar book at the library: Read the first sentence and try to guess the genre or do it without looking at the picture on the cover or reading the blurb in the back nor any of the reviews to give it away. Can you guess which genre? Titles and authors can be a dead give-a-way so just pick a book at random and see if you can guess the type of story by playing that little game. 
 
In closing, here are a couple of questions to ask about some of the books you've already read:
 
How many stories in any genre follow the pattern of 'the journey' or the 'stranger'?
 
What are your favorite examples of these two forms of Master Plot? 
 
...till next time...
 
:Flying:

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#13 Red

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 11:34 AM

All the above questions and elements in story telling give us the tools to add to our fun when reading a short story. They also provide us a basis to explore longer novels. Today's focus will be on pre-reading to help readers choose books to purchase or read from the library. 
 
Walk into any book store and what do you find? People perusing the isles pre-reading blurbs, looking at covers, trying to decide on what book to buy.
 
An artful reader knows what to look for when it comes to authors and characters, but what about the structure of the novel? I think I've mentioned a few good questions to ask yourself on some of the previous posts.
 
Short stories are good for a single sitting read through as they never take much time to read. They focus more on one or two characters with action inside a limited space of time. They hardly ever include sub-plots. A short story is like a good song.
 
Novels take a while to read. Sometimes days and even weeks. They have multiple characters and they allow an author to flesh out the roundness of the main players in greater detail. Narration can be devious and filled with devices to put a little meat on a flat character or two. Novels can have an almost unlimited time span. Main characters can be seen from birth to death and beyond. Novels offer multiple plots and sub-plots and sound like a full fledged album of music.
 
Pre-reading at the library or bookstore helps to pick out which book you might be interested in. Pictures on the cover and blurbs on the back are never enough for a pre-read. Notice how advertisers use genre and the names of authors to draw in a reader. Look inside and see how many parts is it divided into. Do any the chapters names catch your eye? When you begin reading a novel spend at least half an hour on it and ask a few questions: 
 
Can you find a master plot? 
Are the characters and settings drawing you in? 
Is the narration first person or third?
Does the first sentence give away the genre?
 
Those are just a few questions to ask yourself. You'll find many more when you explore the art of reading. Here's a few more questions to ask yourself when choosing a new book (or an old one):
 
Would you read a badly reviewed novel from a popular author or a perfect short story?
Would you rather read a classic novel or a modern one?
Would a recommendation from a teacher, librarian, or a friend make difference in your choice of book?
 
:Flying:

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#14 Red

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Posted 18 January 2018 - 03:26 PM

Chapters, parts, and patterns...
 
All fiction and non-fiction today is divided up into parts and chapters. It gives long works structure for the narrator to describe the scenes chained together within chapters. Chapters give breaks to the reader and a chance to go back and re-read a section of interest. Maybe even begin asking the myriad of questions described in previous posts and coming up with a few of your own.
 
Ever ask questions like why are some chapters small and others large? Are there any rules or a general consensus as to how chapters should be formed? 
 
Yes: It's best that an opening chapter(s) in a book should be short to introduce the main character and describe setting and scene then end with a disrupting event. This gives a reader a clue into what to expect.
 
Coordinating and arranging chapters and parts is a thoughtful arrangement and skill by any author. Style always plays a heavy part in this process. Sometimes chapters are even and sometimes clustered about. 
 
Let's take a look at where the idea of chapter and verse division comes from. Of course, it's the Bible. Originally it wasn't divided in any way at all. It's thought it was preceded by the use of epigraphs. Only later commentators put them into verse and chapter when they copied them. 

Stephen Langton (c. 1150 – 9 July 1228) was an English Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and Archbishop of Canterbury between 1207 and his death in 1228. The dispute between King John of England and Pope Innocent III over his election was a major factor to the crisis which produced Magna Carta in 1215. Cardinal Langton is also credited with having divided the Bible into the standard modern arrangement of chapters used today.
 

 

 

They did this to keep an order of reference for themselves and those around them. Later, other writers began mimicing this style and by the 19th century our current form of reading and writing styles are currenty established in our own modern society.  
 
In those days books weren't usually printed whole like they are today. Publishers had better ways to market a tale. They were published in installments and chapters. Later releasing them in larger parts. Charles Dickens was one of most popular authors who used chapters to tell a story to the public. They were released in installments with a couple of chapters each week. 
 
How would an author keep his readers interested in a long work when it's presented like that? That's where chapter formation and main characters come in with major events to change the scene to another part. Major twists, revelations, or other character shifting events are what gives the story a beat. Look for major event chapters. These lead to another part in the story. Sometimes the beat is strange and unorthodox. Modern writers like to play around with these structures giving us a myriad of formation and pattern twists. I hope this post gives you some reference into what to look for in refining your own artist sense in reading. 
 
:Flying:
 

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#15 status - Guest

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Posted 18 January 2018 - 03:37 PM

It takes alot of listening to read good.


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#16 Red

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Posted 18 January 2018 - 03:40 PM

It takes alot of listening to read good.

 

:chuckle:

 

I see what you did there.

 

When you read a line that is so well-written you just close the bok and stare at the wall for a minute.


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#17 Feathers

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Posted 18 January 2018 - 03:51 PM

I like how you imply that reading a good book is like listening to a great symphony. All the parts and pieces coming together to form a coherent listening experience. Rhythms and structures are what constantly drives us forward. Let's hope the stories told in the future will have a patient rhythm to tell the story of our present. Our media tells them so fast the beats per minute make it difficult to keep up.
 
Just a question but I was wondering why people can listen to a song over and over again but find it difficult to re-read short stories and books the same way?

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#18 Feathers

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Posted 18 January 2018 - 06:21 PM

Book reports are great devices to practice writing and analyses. It helps to find patterns in any given material and identify your reactions and interpretations to the work. You might want to consider these major aspects when analyzing literary work in the future.
 
Number 1 is the plot: the sequence of events.
 
Look at theme: those are central ideas in the work.
 
Character is important: Traits and actions of the people.
 
Keep in mind the structure: how the parts of whole relate to one another
 
Look at the setting: the times and places, etc.
 
Point of views should be noted: 1st, 2nd, 3rd person. Narrators, main characters...
 
Style or fashion: how the words and sentences are presented.
 
Imagery: what kind of pictures get created in your head.
 
What is the tone of the work: what are the attitudes of the author and how are they directed to the reader. Use imagery to ask questions.
 
The ever present symbolism: what are the underlying meanings below the surface.
 
All the rhythm and rhyme: is it good to dance to? Beats, meters, and repetitions.
 

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