Welcome to my last Masterplots Theater post. As is so often the case with the last letters of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge (X, Y and Z are so hard), I need to take a few artistic liberties with this post. There are simply no great masterplots for the letter Y.
There are, however, Yarns.
Do you like to create your own story structure, something not grounded by strict traditional forms of three acts and rising action? Do you like to engage the reader in the process by using a narrator or breaking the fourth wall? If you do, the Yarn might be what you need to tell your next story to perfection.
Yarn Plot Notes:
A Yarn is a method of storytelling with loosely defined rules, but a style all its own. The Yarn frequently appears unstructured or under-structured; this is from the tendency to use non-linear or organic storytelling approaches.
Narration and narrators are usually the focal point of the Yarn. Creating a fame for the story is one of the ways this is exhibited. The narrator often breaks the fourth wall and talks to the reader directly. Or a specific character might work as a stand-in for the audience’s perspective.
The Yarn traditionally is a slower to read. It’s described in metaphors of weaving or a spider spinning a web. The reader needs to want to fall under the spell of the Yarn and get trapped by the narration. If the reader is not engaged the story might read as dated, dull or too prose heavy. Lyrical and highly visual prose is always included in a great Yarn.
A Yarn is often highly fanciful and filled with childlike wonder. The core of many Yarns are fairy tales expanded and given new twists. Outlandish story complications and a high level of suspension of disbelief are normal to this form. Character development is often given a back seat to having a large number of quirky characters, or to using stock characters which produce obvious good and evil contrasts. The hallmark of Yarns is a wide or family level of appeal.
Yarns favor folk or vernacular language. Dialects and other techniques give flavor to the characters and feeling of another time and place. However, extreme language quirks are not expressly needed to create a compelling Yarn.
Setting is often a main character for a Yarn. Removing the characters from the setting diminishes the story. Mark Twain’s HUCKLEBERRY FINN is a classic example. Removing the Mississippi River would diminish the story. Being able to picture ourselves within the setting is the best part of a Yarn.
The Yarn loves to leave story threads hanging. Since Yarns come out of oral storytelling traditions, those threads would be the seeds of new stories for another day. The Yarn is not about answers; it’s about questions and possibilities. That means the plot is often open to more than one interpretation.
Example to Study:
· SETTING: Contrary to the book’s blurb, the story is really about the circus. The setting is the venue for the most important action and (sorry for the spoilers) also proves the main catalyst for the climax. The circus is magical, and it receives more attention in terms of development and page time than anything else in the book. Being in love with the setting is really all that’s required of the reader. With a level of affection for this setting, the reader is free to wander. Perhaps creating even more interesting adventures than the ones they find presented on the pages.
· CHARACTERS: Almost all these characters (young and old) are quirky, in part that is to feed the circus vibe, but it’s a step beyond that. Since magic is the norm in this world, almost all the major characters have talents that are extraordinary. The magic is imperfectly defined, but limited by each character’s special abilities. Motivations are sometimes unclear, but there is a black and white sense of good and bad, and we don’t need to wonder who we should like or trust with only one notable exception.
· STRUCTURE: The structure in this book is all over the place: we flip from timeline to timeline, year to year, and back, building pieces of a puzzle.
· BONUS: The story can appeal to the whole family. Yarns were for everyone young and old to partake in. Aside from one very mild sex scene, there is nothing within this story an advance middle grade reader couldn’t handle.
Read Mark Twain and read it all! From TOM SAWYER to THE CELEBRATED FROG OF CALAVERAS COUNTY. No one can spin a yarn like Twain.
Thank you for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed Y is for Yarn and we invite you back tomorrow for our last installment of Masterplots Theater, Z is for Zoomorphic.
If you love Yarns or tried to write one, please share your experience in the comments.
For more episodes of Masterplots Theater, check out the list below:
A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love
C is for Chosen One
D is for Dystopia
E is for Escape
F is for Fool Triumphant
G is for Gothic
H is for Happily-Ever-After
I is for Institutionalized
J is for Journal
K is for Kinsmen
L is for Love Story
M is for Metamorphosis
N is for Nemesis
O is for Out of the Bottle
P is for Pursuit
Q is for Quest
R is for Rite of Passage
S is for Sacrifice
T is for Thriller
U is for Unrequited Love
V is for Vengeance
W is for Wretched Excess
X is for X Meets Y, Genre Mashups