On Graphs & Writing

It is a well known fact that we CWs have a strong and insidious dislike of math. We are writers after all: wielders of the mighty pen. You’re using a pencil?! Haha, what is this?? We’re not in MATH!!!

But lately there has been change brewing. Lately. . . well, the landscape has changed. The old ways are being reconsidered; the traditions are being examined. Is it time for us to change our ways? To accept the confusing notion of x’s and y’s? Is it time to give ourselves in. . . to graphs?

        Yes.
        No.
        No?
        No.
        Why not?
        I don’t wanna.

Luckily this conversation has never happened, because let’s face it, graphs are awesome. They’re useful, they’re easy to draw, they’re visual and helpful.

We have encountered two main types of graph: the emotional timeline and the vonnegram (adapted from a lecture from Kurt Vonnegut about the shape of stories). In drawing an emotional timeline, you are forced to iterate and plot what you’re trying to accomplish, what you want and are trying to make your reader feel or see. When drawing a vonnegram, you come to the depressing conclusion that you inevitably make your characters suffer with little reprieve: you have to draw the curve of your characters journey, showing where there is hope and where there is sorrow, all in relation to an “average day.”

But why do we do this? What purpose does it serve? It’s probably because the shapes of stories matter: they help us see our writing and the writing of others outside of words. By looking at how we shape our stories, how we want others to see and experience the words that we write, we can see how we hope our words shape others.

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