Last Monday I discussed how to frame a story in the Written Word style. If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to give it a look before plunging into this post. And that is how to frame a story using the Word of Mouth.
In case you decided to press on without reading the previous post, as was advised, here’s a little definition of framing: Framing is a literary technique that makes it possible to include multiple different stories and narrative structures into one without resulting in a mishmash of tales that have no rhyme or reason.
Yeah, you don’t want that.
The two categories I like to split framing into are the Written Word and the Word of Mouth. Within each of the categories, there are also three different techniques that can be employed. In the first one, it’s epistolary, diary style, and book within a book. In the second one, it’s telling tales, flashbacks, and narrators.
The Word of Mouth
This method can set the mood and give the story an epic, layered feel (a wise character tells tales, a hero remembers the past, a strange narrator leaves recorded tapes).
This is self explanatory and has been done many times in the past. Some of the most famous examples of this technique are Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In both examples, there is a person who is hearing a tale from an old, wizened man (usually about sins of the past).
Here’s my take on this post using this method:
A lovely girl of an age that hasn’t been weathered by the cracks of life and whips of fate walked down the edge of an island. She was there to visit her father, though her father was long past the state of mind that allowed for pleasant conversations over a cup of raspberry tea.
“Will you wait, young maiden,” said an old woman, not yet a hag but barely a human. Her white hair stuck to her oddly shaped head and her sullen eyes looked like they belonged to someone who had read in the dark for centuries.
The girl stopped, though she wanted to run. “Y-y-yes, how can I help you?”
“Let me tell you a tale,” the not-yet-hag said, creeping closer. “A tale about telling tales…”
You may have heard of this technique before. It’s when a character remembers his or her past to reveal more about their nature. But did you know you can used this as a frame for a story? Orson Welles does a superb job of that in Citizen Kane. There, a reporter visits Charles Foster Kane’s acquaintances and learns about his past, though all of them tell a different tale of the renown Kane.
Here’s my take.
“Sir, sir, may I ask you about how you came to be such a successful writer?” asked a reporter with glasses rounder than a pair of golf balls. He had a ridiculous notepad with him and a green pen, as if he could keep up with me.
I took a sip of my lemonade and looked out at the mountains towering in the horizon. The summer was a warm one. A hot one.
“Please, I came all the way from Minnesota.”
“Alright, alright,” I said, the whining grating on my old nerves. “I’ll tell you. Make sure you can keep up.” I nodded at his notepad and let my memories carry me away into the glory days. “When I was young, barely an aspiring writer, I found a post about how to frame stories.”
This last one sounds like the other two, pretty much, doesn’t it? But it’s not, I assure you. While every story has a narrator, not every narrator is created equal, nor does it have to be just one narrator. You can use multiple narrators to create a layered, emotional, and a somewhat unreliable tale. A great example of that is 13 Reasons Why, where the story is told from Hannah Baker’s audio-taped explanation for her suicide with Clay Jensen’s reactions to it. Not an average book by any means.
Here’s what it would look like for this post.
Yesterday, I found a way to access old videos people used to post on a site called YouTube. That was decades ago, before all the restrictions and panic swallowed us up. I watched how they lived, showing only the best of their lives and sometimes the very worst. But my favorite videos by far, were those where people gave advice. In this age, where everyone is out for themselves, such kindness seemed wasteful and so I drank it in like a plant left out in the sun for too long.
“Hi, welcome to PlatinumWriter,” said a young girl with a smile that spoke of tales untold. A life being enjoyed to the fullest. “Today my day was hectic but I was able to carve out a bit of time to make this video: How to Frame a Story Part 2. I do hope this helps you on your journey. Here we go.”
So that’s it for how to frame a story. I hope it was helpful and made you want to go write a book with framing to rival the classics.
Until next time.
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