In the next two weeks before Spring Break we will be reading and examining a series of short stories, and discussing the ‘shape’ of short stories – their plots.

 

Many of you are probably familiar with a simplified version of Freytag’s Pyramid :middle-school-plot-diagram (1)

plot-shape-conflict-2-638However, while this is an easy way to remember the typical form of plot progression in Western storytelling, it is not completely accurate. Not all, not most, stories follow this plot progress. Stories have their own ‘shape’ – and the more interesting the plot of the story, the more interesting the shape.

Listen to amazing short story writer Kurt Vonnegut explain the ‘shape of stories’ by clicking the link below.

Click here to listen to Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘The Shape of Stories’.

Vonnegut explains that stories are much more complex that the typical Freytag’s Pyramid.

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Think of movies you’ve watched – what type of ‘shape’ did the plot create? Think about tv shows – each episode has its own plot, and then all the episodes in a season create a larger plot as well.

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As we read through the short stories in this unit I want you to consider the ‘shape’ of these stories. You will need to keep track of them – and decide which ‘shape’ make for the most interesting story.

Also remember that we’re looking at the shape of Western stories (stories from American or Europe) – stories from other cultures in Asian and the Middle East follow a much different plot structure. Stories in Asian culture are often told in a cyclical or spiral manner:

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If you’ve ever watched an Asian movie or tv show (Dragon Ball Z) and felt like so much information was being repeated, or that the story took a really long time to ‘get going’, it was probably because their storytelling structure is so different from ours.

Some modern storytellers and movie-makers like Christopher Nolan are trying to use new and interesting plot structures – if you’ve seen these movies and have been confused about what’s happen, that’s probably why!

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