1. live2write
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    live2write Member

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    Story within a Story within a Story and so on

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by live2write, May 12, 2012.

    After reviewing and rewriting piece by piece of my story I came to a huge roadblock that could possibly have three solutions. The first is to quit the story and start a new project (unlikely I want to choose this). Second is to keep my short story short and cut out the details that drag the story.

    It had occurred to me after creating a inspiration music playlist that I could possibly create a story within a story structured story.

    The only book I can compare it to is Ray Bradbury's Illustrated Man. For those who have not read it (to sum it up), the book is about eighteen short stories, although having no plot connection to each other, revolve around the idea of human kind and technology. The illustrated man is tattooed with metaphorically "the souls" of each of the individual stories.

    The idea I had in mind was to take the five short stories that I currently have in production (storyboarding phase) and revolve them around the story about their existence. The narrator acts like the story teller and the connection he has to the stories are the involvement with his company and the corruption of what he has done to the "subjects" and society.

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    This will be a science fiction story and will have a conspiracy themed idea.

    Some of the problems that I am facing along with this structure is:

    1. Is it necessary to use this type of structure or should the short stories stand out as their own without a backstory?
    2. Have there been any other books that have used this structure where it worked?
    3. I have not seen many authors publish a "collection" of short stories, how do they structure their collection?
    4. Is it cliche or out of the ordinary?

    What are your thoughts?
  2. killbill
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    killbill Member

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    It is not necessary to have a common character or narrator to connect the stories, but they should have a common "voice" for the connection to be FELT. Notice that the readers feeling the connection is very important. And of course, the stories should stand on their own.

    Don't know about any books with the structure you have in mind but you should read Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. The stories are independent of each other, but they are all about lives of Indians and American Indians who are caught between different cultures. I know the book is not science fiction but you can apply the connection she managed us to feel.

    I think I have answered these.
  3. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Member

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    I don't really see how this is any different than short stories that all have a central theme and maybe even overlapping characters and are set in the same universe as each other (hypothetically). And you could tie it to a central plot that kind of comes out at the end if you really wanted to. I think the benefit of something like this is that if the short stories on their own are solid, then people could read each of the stories on their own and still get something out of it.
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A collection is not really publishable for a new, unknown writer. I'd say go ahead and begin it, but on the back burner.
  5. MissRis
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    MissRis New Member

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    The stories must be able to stand on their own. I think typically, most authors publish short stories independently before making a collection (I may be mistaken).

    Yes, there are many collections of short stories that do this. One that comes to mind is Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam. All of these short stories are about doctors working in a hospital and their experiences. There are a number of others and if you would like any recommendations, send me a PM.

    Although it is not as common as publishing novels, yes authors do publish short story collections. Again, if you want recommendations PM me. A good example is Alice Munro - it's all she does.

    No I do not think so. However, you could always write of novel of interlinked stories that could either a) stand on their own two feet or b) work as a novel. This would be difficult to do, but it's doable. Check Paul Glennon's The Dodecahedron: Or a Frame for Frames. It consists of twelve stories that have a unity of themes and structure. But the plot doesn't move forward to a definitive conclusion nor does it have a definitive beginning or middle. You can also read any of the stories in any order.

    Check out the website: http://www.goodreports.net/reviews/thedodecahedron.htm

    Cogito's advice is valid, it's not typical for a first-time author to do this, but I don't think it should stop you necessarily from writing it. If we all listened to what other people said about writing being a "waste of time" or "not a career" no one would do it. Just my two cents.
  6. C.B Harrington
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    C.B Harrington New Member

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    You seem to be putting the cart before the horse a little bit here.

    Finish your stories.
    If they have a common theme and are strong enough to stand on their own - then you have a collection of short stories.
    If they have a common theme but are not strong enough to stand on their own - use narration to tie them together and you have a novella.
    If they end up being total crap and you hate your life because of them - you have something to use as kindling come winter.

    Just finish writing them. There is no reason to try and pick out wallpaper for a house that isn't built. I say this because of the following. (Since you mentioned Bradbury.)

    Don't try and dictate where you want your stories to take you, sometimes you need to follow in order to look back and find potential.
  7. live2write
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    live2write Member

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    Sorry if I had worded my first post wrong. I am looking to structure my story in a way where the narrator tells the reader a series of stories that are different and have some relationship to each other as well as sharing the same idea.

    Ideally the book is based off of a CEO of a technological cooperation and his reasons for resignation based upon a series of stories unveiling the corruption of what it is causing to society. I do feel that the short stories I am writing can stand as their own as well as work together. Overall they all share the same idea of man vs. machine. However there are pieces to the story that only the narrater can tell and that he knows.
  8. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    If you find the answer, then tell me.

    I'm going the opposite way. I'm telling several free-standing stories, and I'm struggling to meld them into one tale. To me, the transition chapters are the problem. I know where they begin, and where they have to end to segue into the next 'story,' but it feels clumsy sometimes.
  9. C.B Harrington
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    C.B Harrington New Member

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    So, if I'm reading your post correctly, your story attempts to remove the veil of techno-sickness from the reader by using narration of several short stories; in which you are basically doing the same thing to the CEO with every story, thus leading to his resignation - and hopefully opening the eyes of the reader.

    If I have the idea correct, that sounds perfectly fine. I'm a little lost as to what you're looking for assistance on as the questions you asked previously don't seem to apply with your post above.

    It seems like you're a little lost on how the narrator ties these stories together? Well, first things first, the narrator doesn't tie stories together, the writer does. You as the writer need to weave in symbolism and the threads of commonality within the pieces, and then your narrator simply reveals them over time. The plot, which short stories don't often have much of, is the narrator revealing the connection between these stories.

    Sorry if I've missed the mark.

    Edit: I don't know about books that do this, but there are plenty of movies - 4 Rooms, A Christmas Carol, 10 Commandments (terrible btw) - Winnie the Pooh kind of does this too.
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