1. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Help and guidance on Specific Story Structures

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by sprirj, Aug 25, 2010.

    Hello, So it turns out I'm writing a tragedy. I hadn't realised this was the case until about a week ago (I'm 42,000 words into my novel-1st draft). So I wondered if there was a specific storyline structure depending on genre? I've had a bit of a google and can't find any clear outlines. But if any one has the answers I'd be grateful. I guess I might be too late to do any major changes to my book, but it would be nice to give little nods to classic tragedy story telling etc.


    Thanks muchly :)
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Classic Greek tragedy is based on the main character trying to avoid his or her fate (Oedipus Rex, Medea). Shakespearean tragedy is founded upon disasters of timing (Romeo and Juliet). Modern tragedy is based more on imperfections of character (Death of a Salesman, Fatal Attraction), although you still see examples of the older forms (The Final Destination movies are about the greater pain that comes from trying to cheat fate).
     
  3. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Google Aristotle + Poetics.

    It's a book on tragedy written in 350 BC and still applies today.
     
  4. Perdondaris
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    Perdondaris Member

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    Though I'm going to sleep now, I'll just note that Bernard Grebanier's 'The Heart of Hamlet' includes a pretty good chapter on what tragedy is, often referencing the 'Poetics' (which is definitely worth reading). I'll get some quotes from it up tomorrow.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    short answer: 'no'...

    probably because there aren't any... not for modern writing, anyway, though the greeks may have been a bit more formal about such things...
     
  6. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    There are at least a few things you definitely need to have to write an actual tragedy (as opposed to simply a tragic story).

    You're character should start in a position of some respect; a king, a well-respected citizen, someone who has something to lose. Through the character's fatal flaw (ambition, hubris, cheating fate, etc), they fall from grace, lose their position of respect, go through some turmoil. Through this struggle, they must realise the error of their ways, accept their actions and undergo a change in character for the better. Generally, though there are a very small number of exceptions, the character's revelation comes too late and they die as a result of their flaw. As such, the ending of a tragedy is characterised by a sense of loss, of waste (hence "tragic", which literally means "undeserved", not merely "sad").
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    whose etched in stone rule is that arron?

    modern prose tragedies aren't that formulaic... and, imo, no fiction writer should feel they have to follow anyone else's idea of the 'right' or 'only' way to structure a storyline...

    in re that supposedly de rigueur ending, many plot resolutions can be tragic, other than the protagonist's death... in fact, having to live on can often be more tragic than being released from life...

    from what source did you get this meaning?... the english word ['tragical'] actually popped up in the 1540s, having been adopted from the greek word 'tragikos' ['goat']... with the meaning of 'sad/dreadful/pathetic and such...

    i can find no reference to a meaning even close to 'undeserved'... not even in a thesaurus...
     
  8. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    They're the conventions of tragedy, from Aristotle through Shakespeare through Miller and so on. Not so much rules as expectations, but widely known nonetheless. Really anyone who has studied a tragedy at high school level or higher has probably been taught them, given how important they are in understanding not only that given text but its place in the development of literature in general. Obviously, the tragic form (which is distinct from a 'tragic' story) has fallen out of fashion, but those conventions were common and expected on the part of audiences.

    As to that definition of tragedy, it's what I was taught by my classics professor in a course on Ancient Greek tragedy. I don't remember any specific reference, but I'm willing to take her word for it, her being a professor and all.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The word tragedy means "goat song", and refers to competitions in the name of Dionysus for the best story of mortal suffering, for which the prize was a goat.

    The conventions of the time were that the story should echo the philosophy that defying one's destiny will lead to greater suffering.

    Since then, tragedy has diversified through many cultures. The common element is that it should center on suffering experienced by individuals, that could have been avoided. The nature of what could have been avoided varies, whether it be unfortunate timing in Shakespeare's time, or accepting one's destiny in classic Greek tragedy, or addressing one's own character flaws, or some combination of these.

    Other than flaws of timing, most forms of tragedy do treat the suffering as deserved due to unfortunate choices by the sufferer.
     

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