Archive | November, 2009
I have a review coming out in a couple of days where I use the term “story unit.” And I’m putting this here is a kind of footnote so I can link back to this spot when the review is posted.
A story unit is my way of referring to a granular chunk of narrative that is separate from the words used to tell the story. You can think of a story occupying layers. There is subtext, text, and then narrative wrapped up in a pretty package of context. As a writer I find very simple schemes useful as long as they are kind of right. For instance, the mantra: “subject, verb, direct object” has been very helpful for me as a kind of writerly Prozac.
These pieces of narrative are called different things by different people depending on their discipline. I have tried several times to read about narratology. Since I write stories it would seem to make sense that studying the “science of narration” would have something useful to say about the writing of stories. I believe it does, but the texts I’ve read came from a discipline intent on distancing itself from the various competing forms of linguistic theory and an assortment of structural, post-structural, formalist, and neo-formalists theories. These various academic and ideological fights were so old and entrenched that I couldn’t make any sense out of what I was reading. A few times I’ve met writers and academics who have know their narratology, such as Trevor Dodge and Peter Donahue. But when I mention, okay, help! I want to know what is in these books. They seem kind of exahusted by it and change the subject. These are both reasonable people and I figure they would tell me what was there if from a writing stand point there was anything there.