Week 4 Blog Post: Diagrammatic Storytelling
This week’s story titled Great Rock n’Roll Pauses utilized a digital slideshow to tell a touching story. This slideshow wasn’t simply text in boxes formatted like a regular book. Instead, each slide conveyed emotion and ideas through design elements and positioning of text and shapes. This story is one I’ll be recommending to those I know would appreciate it’s creation.
We are introduced to a table of contents if you will depicting 4 distinct acts of the story. Next, we are introduced to the characters of the story including our main, Alison Blake. The story contains a handful of conflicts that are at first hard to distinguish which one is the main conflict of the plot. Alison being annoyed with her mother, Sasha, at just about everything she does, indicated by the “annoying habit #number” she puts in the slides, is indicative of one conflict. Drew Blake, or Dad, and his drinking problem that’s attributed to past trauma and his current work life is yet another conflict. Even Sasha refusing to talk about her previous life experiences with Alison is another smaller conflict. However, it appears that the main conflict comes from Drew and Lincoln’s (Alison’s older brother) communication barrier.
We see in the story that Drew has a hard time understanding the way Lincoln communicates his thoughts and feelings, in this case Lincoln is fascinated by the pauses in popular rock and roll music. In slide 16, we see that Alison has created a flow of text to describe the thought that Lincoln intends to communicate and what actually comes out in words. To further the idea that this is the main conflict of the story, it’s the only conflict that gets resolved at the end of the story. If we follow the classical pyramid structure of plot, the outburst that Drew has over Lincoln’s response represents the climax of the story, or where the conflict becomes clearly identified. Then, following the pyramid structure, the scene back at home where Drew asks Lincoln if he “hears” the pause of the outside world, we see that Drew finally understands how Lincoln’s mind works.
“Okay. I know.”
Considering the explanations of Diagrammatic Writing by Johanna Drucker, we can see where Alison Blake incorporated the use of special awareness to draw the attention of the reader. For my own story, I have a much better understanding of how to use a pages space for my benefit. I can really get creative when it comes to conveying my ideas, but not too much so that the reader is left confused or unsure of where to go next.
“The space of a page is finite” (Diagrammatic, pg. 11)
Through the proper utilization of the space of a page, I can experiment with size, shape, direction, color, order, and text style to generate pace, rhythm, and flow for the reader to grasp. I’m eager to see where these creative thoughts will take me in cultivating my story.
Post #4: Diagrammatic Fiction
Drucker’s Diagrammatic Writing discusses different forms of diagrammatic writing while using those strategies in its explanations. One of my favorite strategies was the use of surrounding a paragraph with other paragraphs to create a trapped or smaller feel to the contained dialogue. It changes the feel and impact of the words–they are coming from somewhere specific, rather than just text on a page. Context and placement impact the reception of the words. I also enjoyed the ability to have dialogue with your own writing. You can have a line stating something, then have another line commenting on it using footnotes, smaller lines between the larger lines, or side columns. I could use that for a character’s internal dialogue: the character could state something as a fact, then express self-doubt in smaller text beside it. I found this book genuinely fun, it reminded me of free form poetry.
Egan’s Great Rock n’ Roll Pauses is about a family and their relationships with one another. The protagonist, a twelve year old named Alison, describes her parents’ pasts, family dynamics, and the past couple of days through slide shows. The slides use colors, grouped words, spacing, arrows, shapes, and dialogue side-by-side to provide visuals for the scene and the pacing of the story. Alison’s father Drew struggles to connect with Alison’s brother Lincoln and doesn’t understand Lincoln’s obsession with the pauses in his favorite songs. Alison’s mother Sasha is more private about her past, though Alison repeatedly asks about the death of her mother’s friend. Her father is more open about the past, but is dealing with the stress of losing a patient. Conflict arises when Drew snaps at Lincoln while he is talking about music. Sasha explains to Drew the significance of the pauses in songs, and Drew and Alison go for a walk through the desert. Drew expresses that he wishes to do better.
I personally love the way the story presents dialogue between characters. Having each line of dialogue appear in a separate bubble connected to other bubbles creates an interesting rhythm and visuals. It almost makes the conversations feel more natural, they’re just things a father and daughter would say when walking through a desert together. I also enjoyed how Great Rock n’ Roll presented characters’ thought processes, like how it showed how Lincoln wants to show that he loves his dad by sharing his interests with him. The story also used colors and some shapes to present the visuals of a scene, like the desert, without actually putting a picture of a desert in the slides. The presence or absence of color and dialogue added to the immersion and impact of the story.