Diagrammatic Writing by Johanna Drucker introduced to me to the idea that the style, placement, and structure of text can sometimes convey more meaning to a reader than the text itself. The author uses the powerful phrase, “the first words placed define the space” to explain her unique perspective on diagrammatic writing. She goes on to explain that it is not the phrase itself that’s important but where it is placed within the page.
The author asks you to “look at the proportions of the very first page on which the single phrase stands alone. There the line of text is shifted towards the gutter, slightly left of center. If placed at the mechanical center, it would fly off the page. Lower down and it would be oppressed by the mass of space above. Higher up and it would appear too eager, presumptuous, slightly obnoxious in its immediate and pressing bid for attention.”
I have always noticed that I pay more attention to detail when it comes to how I place text and images in different class projects than some of my other classmates but I never considered the result of those choices and how I can use this concept in a more intentional and influential way.
I have to admit when I first started reading Great Rock n’Roll Pauses by Jennifer Egan, I thought I must’ve clicked on the wrong link. What started out as a compilation of 76 brightly colored and confusing slides quickly turned into an inspirational and interesting story when I began to put the pieces together. The author refers to the story as her slide journal and uses different charts and graphics to explain different parts of her story. She uses a single sentence on each slide to portray an important part of the story and a format like the one below to show conversations between her and her family members.
The slideshow definitely gave me a lot of ideas about the different structures and formats I can use to tell a story. I learned to use similar structures to contain equally important pieces of information and to pay attention to how a reader will take in information with the top right section showing you the most eye catching content.
While most films follow a more Aristotelian plotline, a good story doesn’t need to follow rules and a specific structure to give a compelling piece of art. The short film 160 Characters felt super raw and realistic due to its stylistic structure. These days, a good portion of our lives take place and are archived on technological devices through pictures and text and Victoria Mapplebeck uses this fact of life to tell the story of her pregnancy, her experience with being a single mom, and her relationship with her son’s father. It was interesting to see the story unfold from a first-person perspective without really ever seeing the main character. It was even more interesting to see monumental life events take place in the small, less glamorous settings of real life.
Another one of the short films that doesn’t follow the Aristotelian plotline was She and Her Cat, by Makoto Shinkai. This story is told from the perspective of a cat who has a deep love for its owner. This unusual story has an equally unusual structure. It is told through a series of illustrated black and white images and depicts a year in life of a young woman and her cat. The images and fragmented narration do a very good job of making you feel like you are in the mind of the cat and understand her struggles and emotions.
I thought the movie Fargo tied in very nicely with the idea of an Aristotelian tragedy. First, I thought the whole movie read a lot more as a comedy than a tragedy. In the very beginning, we don’t have a very good understanding of what Jerry’s motivations are when it comes to the kidnapping. All we know is that he is in debt and created an elaborate plan to get the money he needs. We feel pity for the main character, and we are able to assume that this will be a tragic story where the main character gets desperate and if we were in his shoes, we might do the same. Very quickly this changed for me. As the plot goes on, we see that much of his plan wasn’t thought through at all and that if Jerry had considered all of the ways in which his plan could go wrong, that he probably would never have done it in the first place.
Poetics by Aristotle defines a reversal as, “an event that occurs contrary to our expectations and is therefore surprising, but that nonetheless appears as a necessary outcome.”
As soon as the state trooper is shot, a “reversal” occurs, and we realize that things are about to get a whole lot worse for the main character and everyone else involved. This is when the plot felt a lot more like a comedy to me because it’s just one bad thing after another and I do get the feeling that the main character is “worse than us.” It becomes very clear that Jerry is probably not as successful as he wants to be because he’s just not that smart. In my opinion, the fact that his entire plan relies on no cops being involved and him delivering the money himself is rather naïve, and the fact that he initially never considers how this will affect his kid is very alarming. Even after everything happens, it’s very clear that Jerry doesn’t take much responsibility for anything and it makes me think that he probably never took responsibility for things throughout the rest of his life. This kind of mindset allows people to blame all of their shortcomings on others and as a result are probably willing to stretch the boundaries of right and wrong more than most people.