Asunder is on the cutting edge of storytelling delivery. We hope to make it a brave new world of storytelling forms as well. Since Asunder stories are dispersed in time and space, writing them is unlike most kinds of writing. Your audience can and will arrive from any direction, so why start your story at a particular location? Why lead your audience on a leash when you can set them free and surprise them at every turn? We encourage you to embrace this non-linear approach to plot. Play with it. Deform it. Rip it apart and stitch together a Mobius strip of your design.
Non-Linear Storytelling Patterns for beacons
After an amazing evening of brainstorming story treatments for Asunder, we began to see patterns—no, not A Beautiful Mind patterns—patterns more like recipes. This is not surprising, since design patterns are commonly used in both interaction design and computer science as ways of formalizing solutions to common problems. The usefulness of speaking in terms of patterns is that we create a common terminology for discussing problems we see over and over. In the case of writing for Asunder, the recurring "problem" is how to structure a compelling and cohesive narrative in non-sequential and dispersed chunks.
Below is our nascent attempt at an Asunder pattern language. We hope it sparks your imagination!
"Each pattern describes a problem that occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice."
— Christopher Alexander
The Blind Men
and the Elephant
One approach to non-linear storytelling we dubbed Blind Men's Elephant. It is based on the parable of the blind men which is thought to have originated in India. In the story, six blind men touch different parts an elephant. Although each man touches the same animal, his idea of the elephant is based only on the small bit he is able to perceive. It is a cautionary tale of limited information and misinterpretation.
As the structure for a story, this pattern is told via a series of 1st person accounts. It can be a murder mystery, a comedy of errors, a dysfunctional family drama. While protagonists have only snippets of information, the audience collects all of the available information, bit by bit.
keywords: unreliable narrators, montage, fragments, moral relativism
This second story pattern was inspired by Richard Linklater's Slacker. Slacker is a seemingly plotless film that follows a single day in the life of a series of misfits in Austin, Texas. Like the film equivalent of chain smoking, Slacker moves from conversation (or monologue) to conversation, never staying for more than a few moments before picking up someone else in the scene and following them.
As the structure for an Asunder story, ccollections of conversations can be used to draw a portrait of a city, explore a theme or topic through many voices, showcase diversity (imagine a colorful range of accents) or lack thereof.
keywords: vernacular, tower of Babel, dialogue, seamless segue
The Maltese Falcon
In fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot. The most common type of MacGuffin is an object, place, or person; other, more abstract types include money, victory, glory, survival, power, love, or some unexplained driving force.
The MacGuffin technique is common in films, especially thrillers. Usually the MacGuffin is the central focus of the film in the first act, and thereafter declines in importance. It may re-appear at the climax of the story, but sometimes is actually forgotten by the end of the story. Multiple MacGuffins are sometimes derisively identified as plot coupons.
Two narrative threads—or more—are woven together; two cases are prosecuted, two murders investigated, and so on.
Essentially, the A-plot is repeated in miniature in the B-plot. By looking at the results of one, the main character or audience gains a greater understanding of the other. This gives the story layers and depth while remaining concise. It allows you to more fully explore each story — they prop one another up.
For example, suppose the A-plot has the heroine trying to get a pair of rare birds to mate. The subplot is the heroine is in denial about being in love with her best friend. By getting the birds together, she realizes she is in love with her friend.
The Personification of Inanimate Objects
Personification is one of the most commonly used and recognized literary devices. It refers to the practice of attaching human traits and characteristics with inanimate objects, phenomena and animals.
The Scavenger Hunt
A Scavenger Hunt is a party game (played by individuals or teams) in which players have to find a list of items by a set deadline.
Smaller scale versions have very limited settings and require finding items that are concealed in the area. Modern variations include online hunts (often for specific pieces of information) and hunts that have players use smartphones.
A Scavenger Hunt can serve as the plot device for a story, or as an incident in another plot. In mystery stories, the scavenger hunt frequently makes the investigators' job more difficult, since the game will mean many people will be moving near a crime scene or have sketchy verification of their whereabouts.
A hunt of the "preprinted clues" variety is one plot in Aunt Dimity and the Village Witch. A seventeenth-century vicar wrote an account of a woman reputed to be a witch and hid pages of it in locations in and around the village. Mrs. Amelia Thistle has the first page, left to her by her late brother, and comes to Finch to find the rest. Each page has a graphic clue to the location of the next, and Lori and other residents join in the search by deciphering the clues.
Can You Think of Any More?
Send them to us and we'll add them to this list. Contact us at storiesasunder at gmail dot com.