| David Gane

Chronotopes

Recently, while working on the new book, I had the opportunity to dig into some old work from my Masters thesis.

Ang and I have been reworking major parts of the storyline, which has required a lot of moving and shuffling of scenes and events. She and I would meet, draw diagrams, make story plans out of magnets, and eventually we employed the use of a map to sort out where each event takes place. By the end, it was an absolute mess and I wasn’t sure how to clean it up.

That’s when I remembered the work of the literary theorist, Mikhail Bakhtin. He came up with the idea of the chronotope, where time (chronos) and space (topos) was communicated through the language of story

A simple example is the quest. A hero leaves her home in search of a treasure. As the story moves forward in time, so does the character's movement through space. If perhaps the hero has to go to a castle to get a map, then travel to a dungeon to get a key, and then to a dragon’s cave to get the treasure chest, each of this locations are spatial points on the journey, which also intersect with its temporal points.

Now coming back to our story, I realized that I could use a similar solution.

[this discussion will be spoiler free]

For the first part of the book, the characters focus on a problem specifically on one side of the map. This search eventually leads them to the centre of the map, which also happens to correspond to the centre of the story. The last half of the book has the focus shift once again, and this leads further to the right of the map.

When I teach, I often tell students to think that each movement of a story, whether it is an act or part or section, can be thought of as different phases of a journey. A character's decision promotes action which often leads to change, whether it is in how they live their life, or in this case, where they live.

Chonotopes are a very physical representation of this progression.

Tags: Process

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