There are lots of different ways to write a story—something they have in common with skinning a cat. Also, they're both jobs that can drive you crazy and make you queasy. But I shouldn't expand on that metaphor anymore. All you need to know is that one of the ways to tell a story is in a circle.
Today I want to take you through that way and show you the pros and cons of such a venture. Structure only works if the story you want to tell fits into it. So don't get bogged down if your story isn't a circle. But I also think sometimes it's interesting to look at your idea through a new structure. What could telling it in a circle bring you?
Check out this video from Savage Books, and let's talk after.
Are You Using Circular Storytelling? The Pros and Cons of This Tactic
That video was fun. I'm not a massive Attack on Titan fan, so for the benefit of this article, I'm going to use some of the more mainstream titles discussed to go through this kind of storytelling.
Structure and planning are incredibly hard for new writers because the longer and more complex their story, the more trouble they have handling all the elements that go into the actual storytelling.
Circular storytelling allows you to follow a traditional hero's journey or Dan Harmon Story Circle while bringing your characters back to where they started.
Circular Storytelling Definition
Circular storytelling is a narrative device commonly used by myths from all over the world. It emphasizes characters venturing out to get what they need, and then returning, having changed, but back exactly where they started.
Examples of Circular Storytelling
I think the best way to understand a story like this is to look at a few examples. Off the top, let's talk about Alice in Wonderland and The Chronicles of Narnia. They're both fantasy stories that see protagonists journey into a world and have an adventure. This adventure does change them, but no matter what, the journey ends with them right back where they started. They're on the outside of a magical land, better for their adventure but also standing in the same shoes in which they began.
In a sense, they're returned to homeostasis. It can be a new one, with more information gained, but it is homeostasis.
Another movie I absolutely adore with this structure is Gone Girl. That's a story about a couple that opens on a shot of them together. The story then takes us on a wild ride, only to end with another shot of them together. Gone Girl is circular in plot and narrative. In the end, they're back to living the same life of secrets they were before, it's just that the secrets are kept from the outside world and not between them.
Pros of Circular Storytelling
What I like about this method is that it really lends itself to a character going somewhere and changing. You can arc your character in certain ways that evoke drama. It also falls into that age-old, tried-and-true method. There are certain beats you can expect to help predict where your story will go. It relieves some of the burdens of the journey.
I also think you can pull the rug out from the audience more. They have expectations, but if you can throw some curves in the story, you can subvert tropes and keep them guessing. This creates a valuable spec, even if you still end up right where the characters began.
Cons of Circular Storytelling
As mentioned immediately above, the reliance on tropes and older structures could make your story inherently predictable. It also may feel too rigid. There are a lot of times we get stuck in a structure and want to break free to tell the story we want. That's crucial to creativity. So never feel bound or hampered by these sorts of things.
I also think stories like these limit where a character can go. Meaning that a lot of these circular stories can be harder for different genres. Again, this is all preference meets trial-and-error. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Summation of Circular Storytelling
This is a fun way to look at any story. Your idea doesn't have to fit in the box it lays out, but it's a tool you can use to analyze where your characters start and where they end up. If you've used it and love it, we want to hear from you. Same if you did not. Just let us know in the comments!
Source: Savage Books