Jasmine's pond of dreams

Jasmine's pond of dreams

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Kurt Vonnegut's story map, Storyteller's log 2-15-2013

Yes, Kurt Vonnegut did the same thing that I'm doing- mapping the ups and downs of the character.

In this post, we'll look at what he came up with.

The horizontal axis he calls the B-E axis for beginning and end, in other words, time. The vertical axis he calls the G-I axis for good fortune and ill fortune.
His first mapping looks like a flared U shape. But it's actually a more of a sine wave. He describes it as a character gets them self into trouble- the bottom of the U. And then they get them self out of trouble. The audience is happy.
His next map continues with the sine wave but offsets and adds a piece at the beginning. This is the classic boy meets girl story. Boy meets girl- good fortune. Boy loses girl- ill fortune. Boy gets girl back- good, even better, fortune. The audience is happy.

The next map starts looking similar to my shape. Kurt is very funny when he talks about this shape because he doesn't tell you the name of the story. But you know the events so well- you laugh. 

This girl starts out really low. Her fairy godmother shows up and starts giving her stuff necessary to go to the palace ball. She has a great time- good fortune. At midnight everything comes crashing down- ill fortune. She had love and lost it. Is it truly better to have loved and lost or never have loved at all? In the end she has great fortune because she has the right shoe size.

I don't know if Kurt liked Kafka. Kafka's character starts with ill fortune. Then he turns into a cockroach and goes even lower. I know I didn't like this story. I read it way before I could appreciate literature. Maybe it even discouraged me from reading further. Did I not like the story or the structure? Interesting question.

As a side note, my first and second grade teachers were named Mrs. Kafka and Sister Quentin- an existential author and the name of a prison.

The last map of his that I'm familiar with is Hamlet. Hamlet seems to have ill fortune and doesn't change. Kurt suggests not even drawing a line for his story because we ultimately don't know if it was good or ill fortune. He does like Shakespeare's Hamlet because he says he tells the truth. 

I learned a lot of this information from Lapham's Quarterly. Here's the link:

Kurt gives a chalk talk lecture about his approach on you tube. He's actually very funny too. You can watch it here:

Next up we'll see how his approach and mine compare...

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