As everyone knows—at least those within the halls of academia—narratology is the branch of knowledge or literary criticism that deals with the function of narrative and its themes, conventions and symbols. Ah, symbolism! Symbols are those hidden gems in literary expression within the narrative that is the storyline and the intrigue that is the plot. Fiction writers strive to put the meat on the bones with these precious jewels.

As to themes, a novelist only has to look to the Greek three-act template for inspiration. We structured our recent novel, The Landscape of Time, with 9 chapters corresponding to scenes within three acts. The theme words that served as the muses for writing these chapters were:

1. Defining                  4. Change                        7. Revelation

2. Discovering             5. Choice                         8. Vindication

3. Dodging                   6. Chance                        9. Collaboration

Literary conventions have raised long-lasting philosophical discussion. Academics have bounced their literary knowledge off the green ivy of university walls. Do they make their findings, their thoughts available to your local book club, to your local writers’ conference, to editors at publishing houses, to literary agents, to aspiring writers awash in the letters on their keyboards? Not that these academics write in a secret language—well, almost—they speak in a literary tongue far, far distant from the formula writing that dominates television, movies, children’s books and romance novels.

It looks like it’s up to literary novelists to pen the 21st century social novel that can re-define narratology.


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