Stories are set in their own world and, when told well, invite the reader to step into that world. Whether this is a fantasy invention or a reflection of our actual lives, there are certain elements which may be employed to enhance the ‘enter-inable-ness’ of these worlds.
In Avatars of Story, narratologist Marie-Laure Ryan, examines digital media, comparing it to traditional print. She explores how story worlds are communicated and pinpoints eight principles positing, the more of which are used, the more satisfying the story. Ryan affirms that a story should be set in a definite place and time and filled with individuated characters. If a transformation can occur to one of these characters so much the better. And, if a reader identifies emotionally with the transformation, then the story becomes golden.
Last week I realised I needed to map out my story world. I bought the little stickers as I said, stuck them on the map as promised and then discovered something I had not bargained for.
The geography of eighteenth century aristocratic families suddenly came to life. In my head I could see them dashing about in their carriages, hither and thither, visiting one another. I could see how some stayed with in their own geographical group and I understood for the first time the economic and social climbing of others. Oh the power of a map.
I’ve always loved a map at the beginning of a book. My first introduction to such was in the Milly Molly Mandy series of books, tales of young girl who’s greatest adventure amounted to the possible purchasing of a new fabric for a dress – an escapade of too much excitement as she decided against it in the end. *
I moved on to bigger and bolder and became enthralled by Narnia. Literally. I was there with those Pevensie children and, like them, was devastated when the story ended and I was thrusted suddenly back to reality.
And now the world of eighteenth-century Munster is beckoning. The wardrobe door is open.
I need to slide past those fur coats and walk towards the lamp post. I have my map. I know where I’m going. All I have to do is step in.
* apologies to Milly Molly Mandy. I loved her. And that story of the new dress was a good one. I sacrificed her for the sake of a cheap – and not even funny – joke.