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4) Anecdote Form (based on Labov)

The linguist William Labov analyzed the parts of the anecdote

1) Abstract
A short (one or two sentence) summary of the story that narrators provide before reconting the story proper. It encapsulates the point of the story.

2) Orientation
Servies to identify the time, place, persons, and their activity or situation and occurs immediately before the first narrative clause. It often includes a portrait of the main character, or context for the situation.

3) Complicating Action & Resolution
These are the core of the narrative. The former begins with the first narrative clause, and the latter ends with the last such clause.

4) Evaluation
Evaluation is the means used by the narrator to indicate the point of the narrative, why it was told and what the narrator was getting at, to ward off the question “so what?”. Evaluative comments may be distributed through the entire narrative. They may be inserted as direct observations by the narrator (external), or be embedded within the story, as dialogue, descripition of gestures, intensifiers, repetitions, comparisons. Comparators may depart from the past tense, and draw upon a background beyond the immediate complicating action.

5) Resolution & Coda
These elements mark the conclusion of the complicating action. Their effect is to create a sense of completion. They may consist of just one sentence, as a tag line, or return the account to the beginning of the narrative.

The Birthday Surprise

[Abstract] Let me tell you about the day George, the hired man at the Gravel plant, surprised Walt with a birthday present.

[Orientation] There was this huge pile, a mountain, of oversize rock that came off the side of the washer. Too big for anything, unless we had a crusher, which we could not afford. They just sat there, smooth oval mottled gray stone, and piled up over the years, always with a few rock-hounds climbing over it, lookng for agates. You could get a full cubic yard, over a ton of this rock, for two dollars in those days.

[Complicating Action] One day George came back from lunch with a present for Dad, a birthday present, something he found at the drugstore. Walt opened it and there was this box and inside the box was a pet rock.

[Evaluation] The pet-rock fad was just starting. Now there was no difference between this pet rock and the rocks in the ovesize pile, except that the pet one had a face painted on it, a frown, with knitted eyebrows, like it was angry, and it was packaged in this box like a pet carrier.

[Action continued] George says, “guess what this thing cost?” and Dad said he couldn’t guess. “Two bits?” he says. “Two dollars!” says George.

[Evaluation: intensifier] Two dollars each he says.

[Action…] Dad stared at that rock, hefted it in his hand, and this look came over his face.

[Evaluation] I thought he was going to throw it.

[Resolution] And that look was a good imitation of the frown on his new pet.

[Coda] He turned to me and says, “Go put this on the oversize pile.”

(275 words)

2018-07-20T14:48:49+00:00 July 20th, 2018|Categories: Memory, Mystory, Narrative, Tutorials|Tags: , , , |

One Comment

  1. Greg Ulmer July 20, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    Students used the literary anecdote as formulated by William Labov as a relay for composing micro fictions. The scenes from each register of the popcycle were put into the form of micro fictions, which enforced some discipline–preventing the habit of essayistic explanation or preemptive interpretation, rather than focusing on the diegesis of the story world. The wide image appears first as a pattern repeating across signifiers recurring across the levels of the popcycle. This pattern is captured in turn by composing an Emblem. The Pet Rock pictured above is the very one mentioned in the story, preserved as a paper weight.

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