Close reading: fiction
The elements of a story | Reading
- [Instructor] Hello readers, I'm going to draw you a map right now, and it's gonna look like I've drawn a mountain. But it's not a map of a mountain. It's a map of a story. What, your saying, how do you map a story? What makes a story pointy? These are great questions, and to answer them, I'll say this, today we're going to talk about the elements of a story, or the parts that make it up, like ingredients in a recipe. Many stories follow a similar pattern. Good readers know what these patterns are, and can talk about them using the right terms. And this helps everyone be on the same page, so to speak, when you discuss or write about the stories you read. I'm about to drop a lot of vocabulary on you, so brace yourselves. The story begins with exposition, where we learn about the characters and the setting. Then, we introduce a conflict, or a big problem. As the characters begin to interact with the conflict or try to solve the problem, we enter rising action. This upward slope of the story mountain. When the conflict comes to a head, we hit the most exciting part of the story, the climax. Here, the conflict can't go any further. We're at the top of the mountain. There's nowhere else to go, except down. After the climax, after this most exciting part of the story, we enter falling action. The climax will happen much closer to the end of the story than to the middle. It's not a symmetrical mountain. The action slows down. The problem has been solved, or maybe the problem has changed, and the characters prepare for the last phase of story, the resolution. This is where we tie up loose ends, characters reflect on what they learned, maybe you set up a sequel. Now, look, that was a lot of information all at once. In order to make sense of it, let's apply all of those terms to a story. Now, our go-to has been the Three Little Pigs, and while that's a story everyone knows, I'm starting to think it needs to be freshened up a little bit, really working its franchise potential, you know? So let's go through the elements of story by looking at my new project, a reboot of Three Little Pigs that I'm calling TLP: Starbound. See, it's Three Little Pigs, but it's in space. That's a space helmet. So I'm gonna put a little story map here in the corner. Okay, so the exposition. It's the future. Pigs have expanded to every corner of the galaxy. Three brave little pigs decide to strike out on their own, exploring a new, exciting region of space. One builds a spaceship out of straw. Go with me here. One builds a spaceship out of twigs. And one builds a spaceship out of flexible hyper alloy they developed in a laboratory. She's the brainy pig. So, we've got the setting. It's the future, they're in space. We've got our characters, the pigs. Now, the conflict. Along comes the notorious space pirate, Captain Wolf. He's big, he's bad, he wants to blow up the spaceships and eat the pigs. He begins hunting down the pig ships, one at a time. Think Captain Wolf has an eye patch? No, he has a cyber eye; he's part robot. And now we enter our rising action phase. Captain Wolf engages the straw ship. They have an exciting space battle. (instructor making shooting noises) And straw pig escapes in the little escape pod to the twig ship! But Captain Wolf follows. He is undaunted. The tension continues to rise. He destroys the twig ship! (instructor making shooting noises) The two pigs escape again, this time to the brick house. I mean, the flexible hyper alloy spaceship, piloted by the science pig. And now, we come to the climax. Captain Wolf comes to the advanced ship. He tries to blow it up, but he can't! It's too powerful. He decides to board the ship, because that's the only way he'll get to eat the pigs. But the pigs trap him in a space barrel while he's still in the airlock. They did it! They solved the problem. Captain Wolf is trapped in a space barrel, and he can't eat them now. The climax is passed, and now we enter the falling action phase of the story. In the version of the story that I know, the three little pigs roll the barrel in to the river. So I think maybe in this version they punt the space barrel out the airlock in to the cold void of space! Or maybe they strand him on a deserted planet, but in any case, they never have to deal with the wolf again. The threat is now gone. And that means that the conflict has been resolved. We're in the resolution part of the story now. The first two little pigs, the straw ship pig and the twig ship pig, learned that they need to put more work in to their spaceships if they wanna survive in space. And they build fancy spaceships just like the science pig. And that's an introduction to story elements. Now that you're familiar with the ideas, start applying them to your favorite stories. You can do this with any form of media: books, comics, TV shows, movies, games. What's the conflict? How is it resolved? Once you start looking for story structure in entertainment, you will find it everywhere. Let us now what you see. You can learn anything; David, out.