Thinking through the narrative frame

What follows is a raw version of fairly recent thinking on how to settle on the best narrative frame for the story.

Maybe have Lester be a motormouth — who admits that he “talks a lot” when he gets nervous. Right there, I have the seeds of a running joke. Whenever he starts monologuing, the reader will know he’s nervous.

So 1) he becomes oral expulsive whenever he’s nervous AND
2) whenever he feels insecure he “shows interest” and compliments others (that is, takes his mom’s advice and uses these techniques to win over his interlocutors) — whether he’s intimidated by the person or the situation.

That’s probably enough to really endear readers to his character. It could be a great way to SHOW his character in a way that lets the reader in on the joke.

It’s also a nice ironic contrast to his complement and partner protagonist — Aliyah, who’s laconic.

When Aliyah gets stressed, she gets:
1) rigid in her thinking, arrogant, rule-bound AND
2) combative.

Aliyah’s archetype, then, is combination of Royal, Fighter, and Know-It-All.
Lester’s is a: Nerd, Neurotic and Pleasure-Seeker (with a splash of Fish-Out-Of-Water and Naif).

Accordingly, Fief has to be a place that stresses both protagonists out in ever increasing degrees.

I should brainstorm some more narrative frames —
Right now, I have Lester performing the “song” of Aliyah to an audience of strikers on the picket line outside of the entrance to the Kingdom of Fief theme park. Though I wouldn’t want to have him state this as an awkward form of exposition. The audience would already know, of course, who and where they are. I could leave it a mystery — just allude to it — give a couple clues.

What do strike supporters do to help out strikers?

Honk their horns, offer words of encouragement, hand out refreshments.

I think I’m pretty committed to having Lester be the narrator.
I don’t want a third-person omniscient narrator.

Would it be funny to have a first-person omniscient narrator?

There’s a kind of comic arrogance to that: a narrator who assumes they know what everyone else is thinking and feeling. There could be a lot of ironic tension between what they assume motivates characters and what those characters actually say and how they behave in a scene. Just how delusional the narrator’s interpretations are.

It’s NOT for this story, though — maybe a different fantasy with some sort of minor god or goddess who’s power is the ability to “know” the minds & hearts of others — others are an “open” book to them.

Other noteworthy narrative devices:

Holden Caulfield — talking to a therapist
Gratuity “Tip” Tucci — an essay assignment
Dearth Nadir — an autobiography (more of a memoir)

legal testimony — a deposition

More brainstorming of narrative frames:

What would be the opposite of a song?

  • cereal box
  • long form narratives
  • investigative journalism
  • movie/screenplay
  • police report
  • therapeutic monologue
  • deposition
  • police interrogation
  • Occupy Wall Street
  • a protest march strike — a speech
  • manifesto
  • list of demands genres middle-graders are familiar with —
  • textbook
  • comic book
  • graphic novel
  • diary
  • diary of a medieval knight
  • rap
  • book report
  • movies
  • TV shows
  • TikTok videos

Fan fiction forms that troubadours might use:

  • song
  • chronicle — think Rabelais

Other medieval genres —

  • Chaucer — first person tales told at a tavern
  • sermon
  • speech before a battle
  • confession
  • treatise
  • essay (think Montaigne)
  • commedia dell’arte plays
  • mead hall tale

The narrator has to be somewhat knowing, somewhat skeptical. Lester is going to mostly play the wavy line. (In The Hidden Tools of Comedy, Steve Kaplan talks about straight lines and wavy lines. More on this later.)
There should be a tension between what the characters say and what they do.
They may also not listen to each other.

What genres complement the protagonists’ comic archetypes?

Lester is trying to do his best at singing this medieval song. But, of course, he’s poorly equipped to do so.

Imagine strike conditions — a sit-in in a key building — corporate headquarters.

No, it should be outside the park itself. This is really the only conceit that fits the story — the centrality of the peasant revolt.

That’s the single most damning feature of this society — the vast inequality of wealth (property & power).

Who’s the audience? — the strikers, the local police, park security, counter-protesters.

That’s the balance I’m going for:

Lester’s clumsy attempt at the elevated locution of a medieval heroic romance mixed with his middle-class kid vernacular.

PLUS, if the audience is other Americans, he can try to explain things in terms that they would recognize. He can use tropes from his and his audience’s culture.

On top of that, these are KoF employees, so they would know the “official version” of the KoF “realm.”

This is an unofficial version — like fan fiction. But he is also claiming more authenticity — that KoF the theme park is actually a pale imitation of the “real” KoF — this fantasy world accessible by the magic portal.

So the purpose of the song is to:

  • entertain
  • inspire them to continue
  • work out what happened?
  • bond with his cousin?

I like the idea that Lester has both a personal and a public reason to tell this story.

I shouldn’t get too caught up, though, in the fine print of this narrative frame. We’re not talking a Sixth Sense level surprise here. The main appeal for the reader is going to be in the premise — and the jokes/gags as they come.

The premise: a headstrong 12-year-old girl wants to be a knight-errant so badly, she, along with her skeptical cousin, get sucked into a fantasy medieval world.

Lester as narrator: the main thrust of the story is that Lester is trying to do honor to both the form he’s adopting (heroic romance) but also to keep his audience (strikers) entertained.

But at the same time, he’s simply trying to do his best, even though he’s poorly equipped to succeed. Part of the humor is in his incompetence, mixed with his sincerity.

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