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Playing catch-up

It’s been a long time. I’ve had a period of several months of dealing with death and illness – not my death (as far as I know) and other people being ill – along with a busy schedule of writing educational materials and suchlike.

Along the way I’ve rekindled some of my long-time interests in narrative and narrative theory, and I just thought I’d share this with you. The ‘Proppian Fairytale Generator’, which used to be on the Brown University website, is still alive and well at the Wayback Machine and it still works. For those of you who don’t know it, Vladimir Propp was an early-1900s exponent of narrative analysis, identifying 7 main character types and 31 specific types of narrative elements in his analysis of fairytales. The characters incuded the hero, the villain, the prize (e.g. the princess the hero intended to marry – sexist but remember we’re dealing with fairytales here that have often been around in one form or another for centuries), and the ‘dispacher’ who sends the hero off on their quest. The narrative elements include someone leaving home (‘absentation’) or being told not to do a certain thing or visit a certain place (‘interdiction’), and the plot is developed by the person doing the interdicted thing (‘violation of interdiction’), or by a ‘villain’ setting out to find and capture something or someone for their own purposes (‘reconnaissance’) and gaining what they want (‘delivery’ – which may be carried out as the result of ‘trickery’). As a result of the delivery or trickery, the hero may need to violate an interdiction to stop the villain, and so on.

I digress. I was playing with the fairytale generator, which automatically creates a story based on a ticklist of characters and narrative elements, and got the following. I just thought it was interesting and had some nice touches I might re-use at some point when I get back into writing fiction properly again – ‘properly’ meaning being when I have the time to do more than add a sentence a day to one of my ongoing story projects.

Here’s the story:

I forget sometimes what people tell me to do or not do. What they tell me slips away into the backwaters of my memory where it drowns in all other memories forgotten.

I gave him my satchel and shoes as he asked me, then I shed my clothes as he advised me to do. “Wear this,” he said, and he shed his own skin. It fell off in a pile on the soil floor looking like a tablecloth used in my home. When I clothed myself in his skin I no longer smelled like my home or the valley. Instead I became like the men on the mountain. I smelled distinctly foreign. I thanked the man and watched as he dressed himself in my own clothes. He said he would wear them until new skin grew on his back.

The silver fish leapt from the water from his gurgling mouth came a bubble that solidified and dropped into my lap. Just as quickly as he had emerged, the fish plopped back into the water, leaving me to puzzle over this mysterious orb.

Burned marks of fire and hot metal left my body colored red with pain.

People began to move away from the other person, who now shook his head and his hands. He kneeled to the floor and placed his head there in mercy.

The soil on my skin turned into sprinkles of gold dust. The people proclaimed me some kind of god.

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