The instructions for this week’s sketch involve the following:
Create a system for generating stories.
- The system should be based on some kind of formalism or abstraction about narrative—maybe one that you read about in the reading, or maybe one that you’ve devised yourself.
- Be weird and opinionated.
- Your system should provide a set of instructions to follow (or an interface to interact with), and at the end produce some kind of story.
- The system should be expressive, i.e., following the instructions multiple times should produce noticeably different stories.
Phytomorphologic narrative system
- First, I don’t consider the system as something that defines one standard narrative structure. I’d rather think of it as a way to create different narratives using metaphors already present in our world. In this case, our metaphors will be inspired by plant morphology.
- Specifically, we use the shape of a plant to define how to tell the story of a person’s life. The health of the leaves, the number of nodes, and the degrees of separation between them define the structure to follow while telling it.
- The system is based on the idea of several events that compose a longer narrative structure. Each of these compact and definable events is seen from the perspective of an entity (or character) in the story. As I will explain in a moment, each of these events may also fragment into the perspectives of different entities, while still pertaining to the internal time of the story.
- Look for a plant with leaves. Hopefully, it will have several stems, with smaller stems and leaves protruding from it. Something like the image below is what I chose in this case.
- Make a 2D representation of it. I chose to draw it.
3. Identify the start and end of the plant/ plant section you chose. Count the number of nodes, leaves, and tips. Each of these will correspond to different elements in the narrative structure. You can see an example below:
4. Consider the main stem of your plant as the total internal time of the story. Each node in the main stem is an event or micro-narrative that begins at that precise moment in the timeline of the story. I have identified them with red dots in the image above.
5. The number of leaf or stem tips on the plant determines the number of entities(characters) in the story. One event, or stem, might have several bifurcations that correspond to these individual entities.
6. An event derived from a node in the main stem means it is being told by someone/something in the first degree of relationship (Immediate Family, partner, offspring, etc. A sub-node inside the event indicates the second degree of relationship with the main character or the first degree of relationship with the character in the secondary stem.
7. The health of each of the appendages also determines the sentiment in which the narrative discourse is formed. An unhealthy stem and leaf set a different emotional setting than a healthy one in terms of how the story is being told.