Crafting narratives with precision and creative insight
Welcome to a unique installment on our blog this week. We're showcasing the journey of an up-and-coming novelist who ventured into the realm of storytelling with the enhanced tools of Subtxt and Subtxt Muse. Dive into her firsthand experience as she navigates the embryonic stages of crafting her novel, guided by our updated models.
As an author, I've always been fascinated by the potential of narrative theory to elevate a story from a simple sequence of events to a profound exploration of the human experience. This week, I had the pleasure of delving deep into the world of narrative science with the help of Muse (from Subtxt), a guide through the intricate landscape of story structure and character motivation.
My initial story idea was modest, far from the high-concept tales that often grab headlines. Yet, I believed in its potential to resonate with readers on a deeper level. With Muse's assistance, I discovered how to apply the principles of narrative theory to transform my concept into a compelling narrative.
This was my idea:
Newly hitched Sarah, a free-spirited writer, and Mark Whitehall, a no-nonsense lawyer, relocate to a seaside abode in California. Hoping to connect with Sarah's widowed mother, who resides nearby, Sarah arranges for her to meet their neighbor, retired sailor Luke. But their initial encounter quickly turns sour when Mark and Luke's personalities clash, causing strain in their own marriage. As their union begins to crumble, Sarah and Mark must confront their diverging views and decide if their relationship is worth fighting for, or if it's time to part ways.
I liked the idea of just exploring these relationships (I'm writing a novel for NaNoWriMo), but I wasn't sure where to start or whether or not this was a good enough idea. I had written a couple first chapters, but I always ended up losing motivation before I could finish.
Opening up Subtxt Muse, I went ahead and answered its question of "How can I help you today?" by giving it my story idea above and asking how I should get started. This is how it responded:
Alright, Rachel, let's dive into the structure of your story idea using the story idea you've provided:
Character Change vs. Steadfast: In your story, Mark, the no-nonsense lawyer, will be the one who significantly changes his worldview by the end. He will learn to appreciate Sarah's free-spirited nature and the value of connecting with others on a more emotional level. Sarah, on the other hand, will stand her ground, maintaining her belief in the importance of family and relationships.
Approach to Problems: Mark likes to build things, use his hands, and get things done, reflecting his practical and structured approach to life. Sarah prefers to change herself or act differently, adapting to situations with her creative and flexible mindset.
Problem-Solving Style: Mark will want to find how things fit together, using a linear problem-solving style, focusing on logical steps and tangible results. Sarah would prefer to solve problems by looking at the bigger picture and considering the emotional impact of decisions.
Story Outcome: For the story outcome, let's decide that the good guys win. This means that despite the challenges, Sarah and Mark will find a way to reconcile their differences and strengthen their marriage.
Sense of Urgency: Throughout the story, Sarah and Mark will feel like they are running out of options as their marriage begins to crumble. This sense of urgency will drive them to confront their issues before it's too late.
Story Driver: Major events will happen to these characters, such as the clash between Mark and Luke, but the characters themselves will decide to take action, which will feel stronger. Their decisions to work on their marriage or confront their personal flaws will drive the story forward.
Story Judgment: At the end of your story, Mark will be at peace, having grown to understand and appreciate Sarah's perspective. This indicates a Story Judgment of Good.
Main Character Growth: Mark will grow throughout the story by trying something new—embracing the emotional and less structured aspects of life, which is a departure from his usual methodical approach.
That, in and of itself, would've been enough to keep me going! I had no idea I had so much of a story in there, but now it all seems so clear to me.
But it was the next part that really left me awestruck:
Now, let's assign the Throughlines to the Domains based on the information we have:
This arrangement follows the rule that the Main Character Domain must be diagonally across from the Obstacle Character Domain, and the Objective Story Domain must be diagonally across from the Relationship Story Domain. Therefore, we have:
Using Subtxt Muse, we've structured your story idea into a cohesive narrative framework. This process helps to ensure that your story elements are consistent and that your characters' journeys are meaningful and satisfying for your readers. 📘✨
That was so much more than I had expected!
For years, I had been intrigued by the Dramatica theory of story and its unique take on narrative structure, but I never could figure out how to get past its terminology and abstract concepts. But with Muse, I now have an impartial friend to explain it all to me!
Not only did Muse re-introduce me to the Four Throughlines: Objective Story (OS), Main Character (MC), Obstacle Character (OC), and Relationship Story (RS), but also explained how to arrange them in that quad of Domains that I always struggled with before: Universe, Physics, Psychology, and Mind. The arrangement of these Domains I know is crucial, but not knowing exactly where to put them has always been off-putting to me. But now I understood where to focus conflict in my story and how to keep it all balanced!
Working with Muse, I realized the power of narrative theory to not only guide the structure of a tale but to infuse it with meaning. It became clear that even a less "high-concept" idea could be transformed into a story that inspires and resonates with readers on a profound level.
In the coming weeks, I'll be sharing more about my journey with Muse and the specific ways in which narrative theory has shaped my story. Whether you're a seasoned writer or just starting, I hope my experience will inspire you to explore the depths of your own narratives.
Until next time, keep weaving those stories, for they hold the power to change the world.
Pretty incredible experience, right?
Oh, and full disclosure: Rachel isn't a real person. She's an AI novelist that I created using Subtxt's Muse Personas feature. She came up with the Random Story Idea, and then used the basic concepts it knew of story structure (the same concepts that run through Muse's memory matrix) to write the above letter to you, thereby providing insights into what could be a potentially compelling and moving story. 🤯
(Oh, and here's an image Muse created to go with it!)
Hope you're as excited about the future as I am given these first test results above using the latest models, and I look forward to inspiring you to write your very best in the years to come.
Note: Muse's ability to help visualize your story's narrative is currently in private-beta. Coming soon to a Subtxt near you!
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