Abstract from a paper I am to deliver at the 3rd Conference of the European Narratology Network in Paris, March 2013:
This paper investigates the phenomenon variously known as the “dramatic arc”, the “narrative arc”, or the “story arc”, most widely disseminated as variations upon Freytag’s Pyramid. Descriptions of this arc are commonplace throughout certain sections of the literature on new media theory, computer game design, film theory, dramatic theory, and interactive learning environments. What this dramatic arc suggests is that a narrative unfolds over time in a predictable way, that it has temporal patterning.
Whilst “patterning” is a common concept within mainstream narratology, the idea that narrative has a prototypical temporal structure is almost entirely absent from this literature. This paper traces the idea back to its origins in Aristotle and, using a number of transmedial case studies, proposes there is some evidence to suggest a prototypical pattern.
The paper then addresses a key theoretical issue—the nature of the y axis in these representations—resolved with the identification of a new variable, logical displacement. This allows a new visual methodology for narrative analysis with a discrete subset of inter-related traces: logical displacement, time, emotional intensity, and information.