Five Ways to Frame Your Story
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You have a story idea, and you’re ready to write. But have you thought much about how you’ll frame your story?
Subjective storytelling is the framework most commonly found in modern literature, and it's perhaps the most obvious way writers think to tell their stories. With a subjective framework, writers utilize a limited point-of-view (i.e. the story is told solely via the main character's thoughts and experiences) to immerse readers in the main character’s journey.
But this style of storytelling isn’t the only way in which you can frame your story for success. What are your other options, and which is best for your novel? Let’s break down five alternative frameworks today!
#1: Multi-POV Subjective Storytelling
Subjective storytelling immerses readers in the story by treating the main character as the lens through which the story is told. Think The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. More often than not, a single POV character — the protagonist — is utilized, but telling the story through the lens of only one character can be limiting.
If your story idea features subplots or a main storyline best told through several lenses, utilizing a multi-POV subjective storytelling style can be a great way to keep readers immersed while taking advantage of a larger scope of viewpoints. This can be done by telling the story through one character's viewpoint at a time, switching lenses at chapter or scene breaks.
Popular novels that utilize this framework include A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.
Note: Subjective storytelling can utilize any point-of-view or tense (e.g. first- or third-person, past or present tense, etc.) so long as the POV is limited to one character at a time.
#2: Objective Storytelling
While subjective storytelling limits the story’s lens to a single character at a time, objective storytelling broadens the lens through which a story is told. Readers aren’t placed in a specific character’s shoes. Rather, an omniscient narrator tells readers of a variety of characters’ thoughts, words, and actions in any given scene, providing a broader scope of the story’s events.
This framework was popular among classics, such as Pride and Prejudice and A Tale of Two Cities. Still, some modern novels use this framework successfully, including Dune by Frank Herbert, the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, and even the Harry Potter series, though Rowling features Harry far more prominently than other characters.
Traditionally speaking, legends are stories that have been passed down through oral recitation over many years. However, many authors have taken advantage of the legendary framework to create new stories that feel deeply rooted in time and tradition.
Stories told as legends often focus on a single character without delving into their subjective viewpoint, with a narrator relating the events of their journey while exploring how the hero grows and changes as a result. Just as their older, oral counterparts, modern legendary fiction often features very prominent themes, exploring one or more specific elements of humanity.
#4: Nostalgic Retellings
Utilizing a story within a story, novels framed as nostalgic retellings feature a narrator — often an older version of the story’s main character — who retells firsthand events from their past.
These past events are often told within a subjective framework, while the story occasionally jumps out of this extended flashback to relate events happening in the present as well. This framework is most often used to highlight how the events of the retelling vastly shaped the person the narrator becomes or to show how past events have led to those in the present timeline.
#5: Epistolary Tales
Stories told through a series of documents — including letters, diary entries, transcripts, and reports — are known as epistolary tales. Some epistolary novels also mix traditional narrative scenes in with the documents used throughout the story.
Authors may choose to utilize an epistolary framework to showcase the broad scope of their world or plot, to add realism, or to show a broader range of viewpoints without the need to resort to an objective, narrator-driven framework.