Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Collage Stories

Herman Melville's Moby Dick and john dos passos's The USA Trilogy extensively incorporate literary collage into the story-telling; dos passos heavily influenced Steinbeck, leading to his incorporation of the technique in The Grapes of Wrath. There are chapters in the latter work detailing conditions in Oklahoma arising from the Dust Bowl - bleak weather, foreclosed farms, the trek to California; these are not part of the Joad saga but advance the story just the same.

Literary collage incorporates a variety of "source" materials into the story: traditional narrative, dialogue, newspaper, radio, theater, tv, song, websites, can all contribute to a chronologically nonlinear story progression. A story may break the chronological narrative with a newspaper op/ed piece, for example, describing public sentiment regarding an issue central to the story. This sentiment becomes part of the story without belonging to a story "event".

Given current technologies, more media can contribute to a story employing literary collage than ever before; Robert Heinlein utilizes this technique to great effect in Starship Troopers by presenting the story as a collection of snippets (with some interactivity, such as a website or personal reader) which, at least in theory, contain additional detail should the reader "... like to know more...".

I think I will explore this technique in some of my immediate work; it's captured my interest and, by specifically including certain source materials, strengthen the setting. Were I to introduce radio dramas and newspaper hawkers to the narrative, I've firmly identified the time of my story without specifying a date.

Let's see how it turns out.

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