Narrative structures: a non linear perspective

I have been working on two draft narrative chapters recently and I am struck by the difference I will have to take in my approach to each. The first narrative has a clear, linear approach. I can see the pathway to take and its structure is straightforward. Beginning: introduce the characters, the place. Middle: there is a conflict. End: development is assured, learning is seen, characters have grown, the denouement is resolved. Simple. Narrative structure at its most elemental. Time, place, actors in the drama with their paths laid out along the chronology.

The second narrative, on the other hand, is more difficult to identify. I think this narrative is more circular. I think it is a stop start narrative. There is eternal conflict, frustration. The beginning is not the beginning, the middle is tedious and the end shows no development, no resolution, no learning. It feels like “groundhog day” where the patience of one person does not resolve in a triumphant ending for the other. It seems like more of the same. Dreary. Endless. Impossible. My friend feels that it is less circular and rather, more like a sea urchin with spikes, the spikes referring to the many ways in which a teacher, carefully and with great skill, tries a different approach to the education of this person, only for the person in question to not get it. It’s like one of those cute stress balls, except the stress is not resolved by squeezing it.

Maybe I should call this narrative a “Sisyphean task”? Maybe I should refer to the ancients, and develop themes based on my current reading of the Odyssey, or some other Greco/Roman tale?

This is a truly delicious conundrum to endure. I AM enjoying myself.


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