Some stories are not about a single protagonist. Sometimes a group or community becomes the larger focus. Using a community as a designing principle is the fourth category in this series.
Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Struasser explores the complexity of a school shooting and could have been told from POV of the shooter, or a friend of the shooter, or a teacher. Instead Struasser lets an entire community tell this story: friends, parents, teachers, students, etc. In so doing, a portrait of the shooters and the events is constructed by the reader through snippets, interviews, and emails. The structure unveils the fragmentation and chaos of the event itself, and how hard it is to find a single truth of an event or person.
Helen Frost’s verse novel Keesha’s House also creates a portrait of a community, but in a different way. The story follows eight protagonists who become homeless. Each character has his or her own arc, and is given one poem per chapter with which to tell his or her story. Frost’s creates unity between these eight individual stories with the use of a wheel chapter structure. At the core of each chapter is a theme, for example: “Why I can’t live at home,” and each poem of that chapter touches upon the theme in a way that is specific to each character. This structure unites an entire community of abandoned children.
Is your story about a community or ensemble of people? How might you use this to influence the structure of your story?
Up Next: Designing Principle #5 – Parallel Stories and Myth
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