I’ve been reading through old workhopping notes and plans, hoping to slim down the hundreds of files that have accumulated on the computer, and I came across a little snippet that I thought was worth pulling out, tidying up, and putting on the blog. It concerns the functions of beginnings to stories in general, and touches on three of the ‘facets’ of fiction that I find to be common to all stories.

  • Location: To be readily and powerfully imaginable, bequeathing time and place, real or imagined, to the reader
  • Ambience: To set the mood in which we want the reader to enter the story
  • Focus: To distinguish what is background from what is foreground, and to identify subjects, themes or characters that will be followed.

The important one missing here is the Narrative Voice – the implied or revealed teller of the story, with his or her own agendas of why and how the story should be told, and what sort of response is expected to it.

When I’ve tried to combine these elements into a comprehensive framework for approaching the subject, Narrative Voice and Location have always been at the core along with Ambience, but character, theme and plot have always jostled for a place. Perhaps the trio that I re-discovered offers a way forward, with that ‘Focus’, which is a term I haven’t used anywhere else that I can recall.

In the particular context that the trio was cited the issue was of beginnings, but of course all three elements persist, though not necessarily unchanging, throughout the whole of a story, as does the Narrative Voice.

Perhaps I should revise my list of the core ‘Facets of Fiction’ now, to read:

Location

Narrative Voice

Ambience

Focus

Which, like any definitive list of such things, might do to be going on with…..

Kowalkski – no thinking cap! (drawn by Alex Halfpenny)

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