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Frame narrative

Posted on September 21, 2012 at 2:55 PM

 

Before we start, I want to get one thing straight. Zoetrope is a great place to have your work critiqued if you are a writer. There are also possibilities if you are interested in film.


Okay then. There is a tool called a "frame story" or "frame narrative." A (relatively) simple example of this would feature a narrator telling the beginning of a story, and then the rest of it is in third person.

 

Wikipedia suggests the function of this "frame story" or "frame narrative" ...is (to act as) a literary technique that sometimes serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, whereby an introductory or main narrative is presented, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories. The frame story leads readers from a first story into another, smaller one (or several ones) within it."

 

Yet another take on the purpose of this device.

 

Pilgrim's Progress demonstrates this. The narrator gives some introductory material, and then shares a dream he had.

 

I also see this frame narrative in the short short story, "How Old Timofei Died Singing," by Rainer Maria Rilke. It features a man telling a story to a disabled friend of his. In this story the narrative is book ended by the first person perspective: It begins with the narrator telling us he likes telling stories to lame people because they are more attentive, and it ends with his lame friend asking him a question about how the people in the story turned out.

 

Some other examples, courtesy of Wikipedia: 

 

"An early example of the frame story is The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, in which the character Scheherazade narrates a set of fairy tales to the Sultan Shahriyar over many nights. Many of Scheherazade's tales are also frame stories, such as Tale of Sindbad the Seaman and  Sindbad the Landsman, a collection of adventures related by Sindbad the Seaman to Sindbad the Landsman."

 

A few more examples: Ovid's Metamorphoses, Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

 

"In Mary Shelley's work, the form echoes in structure the thematic search in the story for something deep, dark, and secret at the heart of the narrative. The form thus also resembles the psychoanalytic process of uncovering the unconscious behind various levels of repressive, obfuscating narratives put in place by the conscious mind. As is often the case (and Shelley's work is no exception), a different individual often narrates the events of a story in each frame."  


A little more on the subject.

 

If you're interested in writing with this approach, here is a "how to:"

 

Yeah, so check out Zoetrope.com. My work here is finished.

 

 

Categories: writing

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