Uses an example to show the Story Telling Model
|Lew Wallace and the Story Telling Model
Lew Wallace was a Civil War general. He wrote the classic Romance/Historical novel, Ben-Hur. It is a good example of the Story Telling Model, a template of sorts that has been around forever.
Wallace begins by providing background to the reader and painting a before snapshot of his Central Character (CC), Judah Ben-Hur. It is set in biblical times when Jesus was going about doing his ministry. We see the CC as a young Jewish noble. His boyhood friend, Masala, has returned from Rome and is no longer the same person he once was. Masala tries to sell Hur on the Roman world view and gets rebuffed. Then, an accident occurs with a falling roof tile that spoils the entrance of the new Governor to Judea. Ben-Hur, while blameless, is wrongfully charged and sent to the galleys and his mother and sister are locked away in a dungeon. On the way to his sentence the CC encounters Jesus who gives him a drink of water.
So we have the classic beginning to the story. The reader gets shown background of the story world, we get a before snapshot of the CC and his antagonist is introduced. There is a Life Changing Event (LCE) that gives opportunity for character development, repetition, symbolism and some foreshadowing that portends things to come.
As the story continues Ben-Hur swears vengeance and against all odds grows stronger. Now the reader sees three crises that build momentum and carry the tale along. First there is a battle where he saves a Roman admiral. In gratitude the Tribune adopts the CC and takes him to Rome. As the story continues the reader sees the CC's character development. No longer is he light hearted and care free. In Rome Judah learns to race chariots. He returns to Jerusalem to settle matters with his antagonist and find his Mother and Sister. In the second crisis Masala is killed in the Coliseum, however, before he dies, tells Ben-Hur that his loved ones caught leprosy while in confinement. In this scene we see Masala's dark horses and Judah's white arabians as symbolism of the clash between good and evil. The CC gets his revenge but it is a hollow triumph. In the third crisis or climax he realizes the truth of the Dramatic Premise (Hate leads to an unfulfilled life) and has a religious experience. He gives Jesus a drink of water on his way to the cross. A miracle follows and the health of Judah's family is restored.
Here we encounter three crisis, each building on the last, culminating in Ben-Hur's witness of the Crucifixion. Themes such as “Vengeance is mine,” “Casting stones,” “Do onto Others,” and “Forgive them for they know not what they do,” play out to the amazement of readers, reinforcing the popular religious beliefs and zeal of his audience. The novel was then and remains today a popular example of its genre.
If you read many books on writing you will soon see the model discussed and one or more of the components emphasized. I’ve read good stories that digressed from this format but not many. In designing the structure of a written work, aspiring writers need to keep this tried and true formula in mind.