Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Response: Writing for Story

I found Jon Franklin's discussion about conflict and resolution very helpful.  In my own writing, I often struggle to make the story a cohesive narrative; I now realize that I don't always match the conflict to the resolution.  In my personal narrative, for example, I feel as if I focused my conflict on my peers and my resolution on myself.  I was apprehensive, however, about his idea that every story must have a resolution.  Radiolab may not function well as an example here since it's an audio podcast and not a written narrative, but the segments within each episode and the overall episodes almost never have resolutions.  If anything the listener finishes the podcast with a greater sense of conflict than that which they were originally presented, but with satisfying bits of new knowledge.  Rarely do I find myself bored by stories told through this medium despite the prevalence of resolution-less conflict.

I also appreciated Franklin's strategy for outlining.  I have not resisted outlining completely, but I usually use an extensive version of the Roman numeral outline.  Franklin's method makes much more sense to me--I hadn't thought about using a short outline that focuses on the action of each segment instead of on the beginning sentence of a paragraph.  While I think Franklin exaggerates the brilliance of his method--is every writer really going to excel using this specific outline style only?--he presents some useful ideas when it comes to narrowing down a story to its basic and necessary elements.

The stories at the beginning of the book helped to illustrate Franklin's points.  I found it useful to look at the way in which he would outline the two stories that he published so he could keep the reader engaged throughout the final product.  He printed a traditionally organized story and a saga, which helped to illustrate the differences between those two forms.  Unfortunately Franklin's ego got in my way in this section as well.  The action in "Mrs. Kelley's Monster" really drew me in, but I found the ending to be fairly unclear.  Was he trying to flash back and forth between the break room with Dr. Ducker and Mrs. Kelley's room?  I still don't think he makes it clear that she dies, instead implying that she may be on her way out but that Dr. Ducker may go in and do a second surgery if she recovers.  In this respect, I think the story is a bad example for explaining a resolution to a story's main conflict.  "The Ballad of Old Man Peters," however, made the saga outline much clearer, as it showed the ups and downs of each segment and how Franklin tied them together into one coherently focused piece.

1. Are there cases in which an author should stray from following Franklin's conflict--action--resolution model?
2. To what extent is this statement helpful: "To be of literary value a complication must, first of all, be basic."  To what extent might that limit a story?
3. Franklin says that the best stories tell of characters who change profoundly throughout the narrative.  Is this always true?


  1. Hi Maggie!

    I'm not entirely clear on how exactly we're suppose to respond to the reading responses, but this is what crossed my mind when I read your review -

    I also found the ending of "Mrs. Kelley's Monster" to be really unclear (as well as much of the importance of the details provided in the beginning of the piece, but that might be just me). I'm curious about whether you have any thoughts on how Franklin could have clarified what, specifically, is happening in the end of that piece in order to help the reader understand that Mrs. Kelley is actually dying.

    I appreciate the way you approached your review of this book, by highlighting both the positives and negatives of Franklin's approach. Thanks for an insightful, thought-provoking post! I look forward to addressing your questions in class.


  2. Hi Maggie,

    I had similar feelings about Franklin's outlining practice. I, too, am a big fan of the Roman Numeral system. However, I liked how Franklin's method forced you to really examine each apsect of your story and how it related to the conflict and resolution.

    I agree with your assessment of "Mrs. Kelly's Monster" as well -- I didn't realize she was dead until he said so, pages down the road! Although he states "Mrs. Kelly is dying", that seems vague (of course she is, she has a brain aneuryism, we're all dying besides). Perhaps clarification could have been given by resurrecting his "pop, pop, pop" theme like so:

    Looking forward to discussing further in class,

    -- Amanda