21 January 2013

Plots and more plots

Over the course of the past couple days, I've been researching, well, okay, surfing, the Net.  I started out by trying to find an easier way to draw a squiggly line tracing a path I needed for my stories.  This led to an examination of sites for fantasy maps looking for one that may have already been drawn.  On one site containing a fantasy map generator, the person recommended a book "20 Master Plots and How to Build Them" by Ronald B Tobias.  This, of course, sent me on a quest.

Whereupon, I found the book at Amazon.  Read the sample which led me to Writer's Digest.  I resurrected my user name/log in info so that I could download "20 Master Plots: The Checklist."  Did a search that didn't turn up what I was looking for.  Didn't use the right keywords.  Howsomeever, I did find a whole lot more info, checked the forums, went to a couple of the other associated sites.  No luck finding the checklist.

I did, however, find out in the course of my meandering I had forgotten what I was searching for in the plethora of information.  By then, after a few breaks which included shutting down my browser, thus erasing my history, I had forgotten where I had found the original recommendation.  Aha.

I returned to Amazon, hoping that I could find the book that way and find the name.  Mistake.  Browsing history there didn't contain the book.  But, I did find it after searching Writer's Digest books.  Returned to Writer's Digest and with the right key words, found the checklist and downloaded it.  Checked it and decided to return to Amazon and purchase said book.

I immediately skimmed through both, which, after sleeping on it, I did another search for "The Whale Husband."  This legend had been featured by Tobias as a story with no plot as compared to "Two English Gentleman" being a story on the verge of a plot.

Tobias did state that "In all fairness, the story probably has many hidden connotations that are available to the original teller and listeners, but as it is here it seems to fail our expectations of what a story should be.  Those expectations are what plot is all about."

I knew there had to be more to the story than the summary given here.  Thus my hunt to track down the original legend of "the Whale Husband."  OOh, yeah.  This hunt led me various places.  Sufficient to say, I needed to find the right key words once again.

A site, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, has a page, Totem Poles and the Stories They Tell that depicts the whale as a "villain" in the Northwest Coast Indian legends, as the whale is a staple in their diet.  It gives a one sentence summary of the tale of a young woman kidnapped by a whale and after assistance from friendly birds and animals and the use of "black magic," the husband was able to rescue her.

The reason I knew there had to be more to the story is simple.  I grew up listening to such stories.  Weell, not the Whale one, others like it.  Our stories and legends are more complex, more subtle than the simple summary in Tobias' book or Ye Olde Curiosity Shop's further enlightenment.

In fact, in the old, old days, one story was told over the course of many days, a mini-series complete with acting out some of the parts.  The complex nature of the stories is the reason many storytellers were trained from birth to tell them.  The subtle nature the reason stories were only told during the winter months.  There was more time to fill, at least in the cold parts of the country.

They are plots within plots within plots designed to make one think.  There were usually four or five plots involved to get to the point of the story.  Translating the stories as told involves a number of things: knowledge of English as a second language, knowledge of customs-why we do the things we do, and the patience to get them right.  Most of the stories would be unwieldy as read in a book.  Think "War and Peace."  Thus, many are cut down to one or two, or simplified when telling it to someone who is not familiar with the old ways.

And the reason many elders do not like to tell the old stories.  Youngsters these days are impatient.

Miew.  Miigwetch.

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