1. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Style Cyclical storytelling

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by daemon, Nov 1, 2014.

    I am outlining a novel in which the protagonist is cursed so no one can form long-term memories of her. She can start a conversation with someone, but that person can only remember what was said in the last half hour, more or less. If the protagonist tries to have an extended conversation, then she has to keep repeating herself, but even then, it is impossible to make true progress.

    I am considering framing the novel as a conversation between the protagonist and the character who was her best friend until the curse began and the friend forgot everything she knew about the protagonist (but not the other way around). The conversation takes place a year or two after the beginning of the curse. The protagonist has with her a journal she has written in that time; she reads some of the entries, recounts what she remembers of the events she has experienced, and answers her friend's questions and comments. That is how the bulk of the story is told.

    The conversation is a cycle. Maybe the book begins with the answer to a question, and it ends with the question itself. Maybe it begins with "However, ..." and ends with the thought that is contradicted or amended by the "However, ..." sentence. There is never an introduction in this conversation, i.e. it is not as if the conversation ends at some point in the book and then begins later; instead, it continues without interruption. There is, therefore, an element of impossibility, since it is implied that the conversation is a cycle with no beginning or end. That is the intended effect. The challenge is to make it internally consistent enough that it works.

    This seems very familiar to me. Are there any works of fiction (books, movies, or otherwise) told in a cycle like this, where the prose (or audiovisuals) itself leads from the ending into the beginning? The first title that comes to mind is Finnegans Wake, but I feel like there must be others. Seeing successful examples of this technique might give me ideas for how to pull it off effectively.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2014
  2. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like the idea of having it beginning the same way it ends up ending... some sick twisted form of foreshadowing.

    Is the entire story just a Q&A with the one character?

    If so, one way to get this to work would be a set of short stories set around the misadventures of these two.

    "Remember that one time that we..." (of course not, but) and then the MC tells the story with the other character going "Uhh..." and asking questions. And do that for like 10 stories or so. Maybe one or two times the other character maybe knows about that. Or it seems familiar. Just to add more tragedy to it.

    I think some TV shows have done something like this for single episodes but I've yet to see a long running series with it. It'd be too difficult for television.
     
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  3. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, the entire story is framed as a Q&A with one character. I like the idea of a series of short stories. Each story can have its own theme -- a different aspect of what life is like when no one remembers you. I am picturing a TV series where each episode opens in this cozy reading room with a fireplace. A conversation between the two characters fades away into a flashback that lasts for the bulk of the episode, and then the episode concludes with some thoughts that both reflect on the events of the flashback and segue into "Next week, on _____..."
     
  4. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    The show How I Met Your Mother is a collection of short stories really, though it's in chronological order. It does often start with the MC, 30 years later, telling the story to his kids, but each episode follows one of the characters' schenanigans. And it was REALLY popular.

    A literary example of the short story compilation would be World War Z. It follows one government worker going around interviewing survivors of the Zombie War (all of which had unique stories. One was an astronaut. One was a submariner in the US Navy. One was a doctor in China for the first outbreak, etc) for a report that the MC has to file at his job. It's a Q&A style short story collection.

    Probably a mix of those two (Q&A from WWZ and the writing method from HIMYM would work very well).
     
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  5. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    Stephen King's Dark Tower series does loop back on itself, ends with the same words as it began with.

    Meant to ask the time frame for the story, you mentioned the person had a journal while I would have thought they would use a smart phone to record conversations, the journal made me think it is in the past.
     
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  6. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, it takes place in a setting where digital technology does not exist.
     

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