1. Ben Edwards

    Ben Edwards New Member

    May 4, 2015
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    Looking for good book or academic article of narative structure and device

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Ben Edwards, May 4, 2015.

    Hi. I am putting a PhD proposal together concerning storytelling in film and looking for a well respected book, or even some academic articles, on story structure and narrative devises. I have Poetics and Roberts McKee's Story but wondered what else was worth looking at. A good book of fairy tales and fables would also be good.

    Have had a look at this forum and it seems great, hopefully someone can help.

  2. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    Hi Ben - I've been away for a couple of weeks, and didn't see your posting. I see nobody has replied as yet.

    I don't know that I will be much help, as it appears you're writing about film storytelling? I'm not exactly sure what you're looking for, actually, but telling a story via film is different from telling a story verbally. Unless it includes an authorial voice-over, a filmed story is told via action, setting and dialogue, and camera work for focus. Verbal (which includes written) storytelling has to create all its visual effects with words, but it has the advantage of being able to relay characters' inner thoughts with words as well.

    Film is reliant on actors to convey things like emotion, but they can't reveal why they feel the way they do, because we don't see their thoughts. This provides an entirely different experience from a written story. This is why I have doubts about people who want to write, but only watch TV and movies, and don't read. They often wonder why their writing lacks life. I think this gap is probably why.

    These folk are trying to tell a story as if they are watching a movie. That's great, if they actually 'see' what's happening in front of them, and can translate it into words so that the person reading the story has the same experience. However, they need to translate feelings as well, and often they don't. They just describe a setting as if they were designing it, giving it no emotional resonance. They describe what a character is doing, and pay a lot of attention to what the character looks like. They give us lots of dialogue. But what is missing are the feelings of the characters, how the characters feel and think about their setting, the other people in it, and what their own purpose in this scene might be. Film does not have "POV" characters, as such. Writing does.

    I've got quite a number of books on novel-writing, which is my chosen storytelling method, but none seem to provide exactly what you might be looking for. As you are going for a PhD on this topic, I assume you already have some idea of "story"—so is it story structure you're looking for? Or what, exactly? Any more tweaking you could give your question would be of help.

    Ah, as for fairy tales and fables. Now you're talking my language!

    I have a fairly extensive collection of classic tales, because I love fairy and folk tales from all around the world. I don't know exactly what you're looking for here, but I assume it pertains to structure again?

    Anything by the Brothers Grimm that is not watered-down for children is a great place to start ...because their original tales were not dumbed-down or edited for 'nasty' violence, etc. They were not especially targeted at children. They were as close to the genuine folk tales as the brothers could get, and consequently quite simple, told in plain language. I have a very inexpensive paperback of some of their stories, entitled Grimm's Fairy Tales, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, published by Puffin Classics, ISBN 0-14-036696-2. It's a reprint of the original English translation, which was published in 1823. I reckon it will still be available on Amazon, as I just bought it a couple of years ago.

    By far, the best overall collection of well-written tales—collected from places like France, Germany, Russian, Italian, Scotland, England ...even China—are the "Colour" Fairy Books, edited by Andrew Lang, and published very very inexpensively by Dover Publications. I own The Green Fairy Book and The Grey Fairy Book, and may someday (when my bookshelves can hold them) all of the series, Blue, Red, and whatever other colours exist. Blue was the first one, Red was the second, Green was the third ...etc.

    If you want a collection of more literary tales, written by identifiable authors, like John Ruskin, George MacDonald, Charles Dickens, Howard Pyle, etc, you could do worse than The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales, edited by Alison Lurie. I own the Oxford University Press version in inexpensive paperback.

    Just for a bit of fun, and a slightly different kind of fable/storytelling ...try the EXCELLENT Russian Gypsy Tales, by James Riordan, and collected by Yefim Druts and Alexei Gessler. These are delightful tales using slightly different storytelling tropes from the more westernised fairy and folktale tradition.

    Or ...and this is one of my favourite wee books of all time ...the stunningly excellent, but little-known Tales of the North Coast, by Alan Temperly and the pupils of Farr Secondary School. Farr Secondary School is situated in Bettyhill, in Strathnaver, on the north coast of Scotland. The back cover of my edition of the book says: In this collection of 58 tales, Alan Temperly and the pupils of Farr Secondary School have built a memorial to the great tradition of Highland story telling. Simply told and unadorned, these tales are wide-ranging—historical dramas, fairy tales, great battles and shipwreck, ghost stories, Highland rogues—they all appear in a gallimaufry of tales, many of which have been told and re-told for generations round the fireside. I can only add that this book, unlike many others of the same ilk, is so unforgettably well-written and presented that I've bought several copies over the years and have given them to friends. This is a tiny classic.

    Anyway, hope I have been of some help.

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