Storyworlds – Part 2

A common technique in serial television narratives is the use of layered stories or plotlines. (Porter, Larson, Harthcock, & Nellis, 2002). This multi-layered story structure can be maintained using this framework (see Figure 1). Scenes or other elements of the main story can alternate with the sub-plots or sub-stories.

The development of dynamic, multi-dimensional characters is also possible within this framework. Characters should be viewed as entities that change over time. They come into existence as some point in storyworld time, change and evolve for a period of time, and then cease to exist, at least in the “physical” sense although they may persist as the memories, dreams, or memorials of other characters or in other settings. The “lifelines” of characters can be linked to the layered story structure, the events, and the settings, creating opportunities for the characters to change and evolve (see Figure 1).

Source: Peter von Stackelberg
Figure 1: This storyworld structure makes possible the “layering” of stories and the development of dynamic characters and settings.

Ryan notes that narratives “establish particular facets of the storyworld into states” (Ryan, Introduction, 2004, p. 62), which is consistent with the approach used in this framework. The evolution of a character occurs as a result of a change from one state of being to another. These points of change in the character’s state of being are illustrated by the diamonds on the characters’ “lifelines” in Figure 1.

The concept of state change can also be applied to settings. From a storytelling perspective, changes in setting can add dramatic tension and conflict, particularly when characters need to deal with those changes. These changes can range from changes in the physical environment – day to night, warm to cold, calm to stormy, and so on – to social and political changes, moral changes, and many more. Mythos, topos, and ethos should be seen as having the potential for state changes to occur. However, care must be taken when incorporating such changes into a story and storyworld to ensure that they are logical, consistent, and plausible based their prior states.

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