For centuries now we have been told that one must have a clear cut beginning middle and end to a story and that to ignore basic Westernized structure (per Aristotle) is the kiss of death… But where does this leave non Westernized writers? Where does this leave other cultures who value different types of stories and expressions?
I write about this briefly in my new book Story Structure Architect because while it is important to dissect plot structure from a mainstream perspective (as 90% of the book does) it can also be helpful to dissect plot from a purely creative analysis of what ‘story’ is. Yes a bestseller will have a very Westernized structure to it, but as far as craft is that all there is? With over 6 billion people on the planet I would hope there is lots of room for many types of stories![more…]
Introducing the Slice of Life plot structure. This structure is defined as a momentary glimpse of reality, rather than a carefully composed, formal imitation of it. By its’ very nature it rejects the traditional 3-act structure and is therefore more open to multi-cultural types of storytelling.
Since the eighteenth century, the French have had what is called the Anti-novel, where novelists free fiction from the expectations of conventional ideas about plot and characterization.
Slice of Life stories are very stream of consciousness. Some Slice of Life writers set out to challenge our expectations regarding literature and entertainment. (Many Native American writers make no distinction between prose and poetry)
This is not to say that those who write without plotting are writing a Slice of Life piece. On the contrary many who write this way will see they still have the traditional plot structure in their work because it has become so ingrained. It is almost impossible for most Westerners to write without traditional structure unless one has never seen a TV show, watched a movie or read a book.
Many people, including writing instructors, judge Slice of Life stories as bad, wrong, boring career killers and try to force students into the traditional 3-Act structure. In many ways this is a shame, as they are not honoring the differences in writers and the differences in storytelling, as they should.
Some successful Slice of Life stories include the following:
- The film Before Sunrise, which is a great example of a Slice of Life story, did so well they have released a sequel to it titled Before Sunset.
- Spike Lee’s protage Lee Davis, has created a Slice of Life piece titled 3 AM where he takes the viewer into the world of taxi drivers.
- Daughters of the Dust is a fairly famous Slice of Life film used in many Western universities.
- English director Jamie Thraves created The Low Down which follows a twenty-something Londoner through that difficult time in life when you realize your youth is ending and your not sure you want to grow up.
- And Anton Chekhove’s An Upheaval is a great example for a novelist. It is an observation of life within an upper class household where the reader is left without a resolution. It is a sort of right of passage.
Many argue that if you want to make money as a writer you should stay away from this type of story structure. This may be true but then again there have been many ways of writing, once thought to be Âun-commercialÂ, that are now the latest Âhot thingÂ. It just takes one success.
Try viewing a slice of life film or better yet try to write one yourself. Take a moment in time for a character and see what happens. With slice of life it truly is the journey, not the destination, that is important.
Personally I have trouble watching slice of life films but I still see their value toward the craft of writing – even if only to understand western structure better by understanding its’ opposite!