• strict warning: Declaration of FeedsImporter::copy() should be compatible with FeedsConfigurable::copy(FeedsConfigurable $configurable) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/includes/FeedsImporter.inc on line 94.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsUserProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsUserProcessor.inc on line 195.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • You must include at least one positive keyword with 3 characters or more.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display.inc on line 1877.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display_block::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin_display::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display_block.inc on line 193.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 641.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 82.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 609.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 128.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 25.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of content_handler_field::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/cck/includes/views/handlers/content_handler_field.inc on line 208.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 745.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 770.

Amplify Your Story’s Power Through Groups

http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/brighter-SKILLS-300x... 300w, http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/brighter-SKILLS-768x... 768w, http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/brighter-SKILLS-600x... 600w, http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/brighter-SKILLS.png 825w" sizes="(max-width: 525px) 100vw, 525px" />photo adapted / Horia Varlan
**Giveaway alert for Banishing Verona by Margot Livesey—see info at the end of this post! Now on with today’s topic…
If I set up a soapbox to read a politically charged excerpt of my novel in front of City Hall, one or two curiosity seekers might stop to listen. But if fifty thousand marched with me to City Hall, and we read in unison, not only would many more onlookers take notice, but the mayor himself would come to the window, the whole thing would be captured on television, and then become a YouTube #flashnovel sensation (hmm, promo note to self).
You know it to be true: the voice of a group is more powerful than the voice of an individual. Since the earliest staged tragedies, storytellers have made creative use of groups to comment with a collective voice on a story’s dramatic action. Known as a Greek chorus, its sole purpose was to amplify the effect of the action onstage through unison movement or speech.
Uses for a Greek chorus might be to:

  • provide background information to help the audience follow the story
  • comment on themes
  • demonstrate how the audience might react emotionally to the drama
  • express what the main characters cannot, such as hidden fears or secrets.

The technique is still alive and well. In her debut, The Lace Reader, author and WU Contributor Brunonia Barry bolstered the perspectives of individual characters through a variety of Greek choruses. My guess is, the rich “types” of characters you might expect to see in her setting of Salem Massachusetts—witches, the religious conservatives who hunted them, and tourists—were the jumping off point for her New York Times bestselling novel.
Story is internal conflict made external
One reason we love story is the way it brings internal conflict out into the light of day, where we can more easily examine its components. Each of Bru’s groups amplifies one of the warring influences within protagonist Towner Whitney.
The witches
The witches, to me, represent Towner’s attempt to own her power as a woman as well as her inheritance of the gift of lace reading (a form of fortune telling). They lend heft to a passage like this:
Ann’s evolution into “Town Witch” was gradual. To hear Eva tell it, you’d think that Ann woke up one day and realized that she was a witch. In fact, it wasn’t a decision; it was an evolution. But her family history was what made her famous. The witches of Salem—the locals who have taken up the practice or the ones who’ve been practicing and have come to Salem because it has been declared a safe haven for witches—have all rallied around Ann Chase. They wear their association like a badge of courage, one that proves that the Salem witches really did exist here all along, a kind of “Look how far we’ve come” thing.

The power of this paragraph, and the power of Ann as a character, can be found in the way that first her family, and then all the witches if Salem, wear their association with Ann in the same way.
The Calvinists
The “Calvinists,” the religious cult led by Towner’s father Calvin, are the external manifestation of Towner’s inner judge and jury, made clear in a scene in which a girl, pregnant by one of the Calvinists, is beaten as a fraud after being unable to cough up the Lord’s Prayer on demand and in public.
The tourists
When the Calvinists come after Towner and the pregnant girl, the tourists—outsiders trying to figure out what’s going on—evoke Towner’s own confused mental state as she tries to make sense of her own memories and perceptions. The tourists also do a great job of increasing the fever pitch:
I see them crossing the street, torches blazing. Traffic stops for them, creating a jam of onlookers. I see the looks of amusement from the tourists. They think they’re watching one of the pageants they’ve seen over and over again in this city.
“Get the witch!” they chant.
The tourists think it’s Bridget Bishop, or one of the other reenactments. They are trying to do their part as well, trying to engage the hysteria, to show they’re comfortable with it. Getting their children involved, too. “Get the witch! Get the witch!” they cry.
The track Bru lays with these groups puts Towner and the pregnant Angela at the center of this revelatory moment:
In this place the scene has become simple and universal. What we are seeing is history repeating itself, one scene superimposed over the other. We are both here and back in old Salem at the same time, with the real Calvinists, the first ones. There is a feeling of impending doom here, and when I look at Angela, for just a moment, I see her in the drab brown Puritan dress, her hair tied back and covered. And we are back in history in the days when they came to get you because you were a woman alone in the world, or because you were different, because your hair was red, or because you had no children of your own and no husband to protect you.
Talk about a Greek chorus: Bru is summoning the power of all of the witches and all of the Puritans (and most of the women) throughout history in order to extend and amplify her novel’s enduring conflict. Mad skills.
Abused women 
Does Bru stop there? Why would she, she was on a roll! A community of abused women, given safe haven offshore on Yellow Dog Island, are a societal representation of the novel’s personal stakes.
Yellow dogs
Another Greek chorus is formed by the wild yellow dogs themselves, who emerge snarling from caves in both dreams and in story events. The pack brings forth the fierceness with which some boundaries must be defended.
Rats!
And is there a better way to evoke one’s fear than a rat for company in a dark tunnel, when your only choices are to return to a smoky inferno or continue forward into deep water? Sure there is. Make it scores of rats, heading in the same direction as the characters—until even the rats sense they have met their end.
Aristotle stated in his Poetics: “The chorus too should be regarded as one of the actors; it should be an integral part of the whole, and share in the action.” Because Bru’s groups were integral to the plot, extended the story’s themes, and exemplified other than overtly explained inner emotions, this technique did not come across as overkill.
It came across as smart.
Can you think of novels in which a Greek chorus has been used to good advantage? Might it work to amplify the theme and spread the stakes of your own novel? Share in the comments!
************
GIVEAWAY! [U.S. only]
After last month’s post, in which I examined (and tweeted about!) the way Margot Livesey set the hook in her novel Banishing Verona, Margot generously sent me a box of signed hardcover copies! If you’d like to enter the giveaway click this title link—The Power of Unexpected Elements—and leave a comment as to what you like about her opening, reproduced in the post. Everyone who already left a complimentary comment about the work will be automatically entered, along with all new comments on that post only. Three winners will be chosen on Friday April 14. Good luck, and many thanks to Margot Livesey for her generosity!

Wish you could buy this author a cup of joe?

Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can!

 

About Kathryn CraftKathryn Craft is the author of two novels from Sourcebooks, The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy. Her work as a freelance developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she leads writing workshops and retreats, and is a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. Learn more on Kathryn's website.Web | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | More Posts

"To be able to write a play a man must be sensitive, imaginative, naive, gullible, passionate; he must be something of an imbecile, something of a poet, something of a liar, something of a damn fool."
Robert E. Sherwood

Random picks

  • Learn best tips to make money from your blog to increase profitability of your small business.
  • Affiliate marketing is always a great way to make money through the internet. That’s it. When you work affiliate marketing into your blog well, there’s nothing that can stop you. How can you correctly earn a living by integrating affiliate marketing into your blog? Let’s read on to learn more…Passive Profit Portals Diversify Your Offerings: Sticking to one product, especially in the beginning, is easy. There are two reasons why many affiliate bloggers don’t venture out to diversify their efforts and promote a range of products: first of all, they get into a...
  • As part of our Talking Books month, the RNIB kindly loaned me a DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System – explained in their interview HERE) plus two talking books to try out.  The first thing that struck me about the  player is how substantial it is.  It’s just a hiccup over eight inches by six inches by two inches and weighs in at about 2lbs.  (I couldn’t find the scales, and so used my standard “Is this heavier or lighter than a bag of sugar?” system.  The answer was “about the same”.)  The second thing I noticed was that the buttons on it were not neatly arranged in elegant ranks,...
  • It’s easy to see that not all WordPress blogs are created equally – some definitely rank better than others. Of the various blogging solutions out there, WordPress remains at the top of its field. You can see it almost everywhere you look. WordPress uses a CMS system which offers a great deal of flexibility, as well as a simple way to attain a higher ranking through Google and other big search eengines, which makes it a popular choice. The WordPress platform also includes exceptional, advanced features which permit search engine optimization for your website. The value of organic...
  • Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password. ************************* Kit Reed reviews Peter Heller's The Painter. Megan Labrise interviews Roz Chast for the cover of Kirkus Reviews. She also speaks with Geoff Dyer and interviews Kaui Hart Hemmings. For the San Francisco Chronicle, Natalie Bakopoulos reviews Stacey D'Erasmo's Wonderland. NBCC board member David Biespiel explores how a "poem is a message from the depths of the human story...

Recommended sites

Most recent titles

Fast fact about writing

Fiction writing is any kind of writing that is not factual. Fictional writing most often takes the form of a story meant to convey an author's point of view or simply to entertain. The result of this may be a short story, novel, novella, screenplay, or drama, which are all types (though not the only types) of fictional writing styles.