21W765j/21L489j (U) (12 undergraduate credits)

21L989 (G) (12 graduate credits)
Interactive and Non-Linear Narrative: Theory and Practice

Dr. Janet H. Murray


Weekly Assignment 4 Due Tuesday March 31

Formulaic Plot Structures

Purpose: To explore a morphological system of notation for representing narrative form in order to consider how we can make use of similar methods for segmenting electronic narratives and for creating variant narratives.


Hamlet on the Holodeck, Chapter 7

V. Propp Morphology of the Folktale. Sections II, III, VI, and IX A,B, and D (Do not be too concerned with mastering the details of the method, just read for the gist.)


Select a particular narrative or a category of narratives from any medium that you know very well (e.g. Borges story, Faulkner story, War and Peace, "The NeverEnding Story," Roseanne, cop-buddy movies, horror movies). You may use print fiction, movies, television shows, or examples from the course readings. Think about what are the formulaic elements of this narrative or genre. Then create your own system of Propp-like story morphemes (i.e. plot units) and the rules for ordering the morphemes that could be used to create an instantiation or a set of instantiations of a work in this form. You may present this as a flow chart or other diagram; as a list of morphemes plus a set of rules for combining them; or as a WWW page. a list of rules or as a WWW stack with script.

You may hand this assignment in as a web page (in a4 folder) or in hard copy.

Alternate Assignment:

Make a web page (in the a4 folder) with a set of links to one or more WWW sites that offer morphemic substitution systems for making stories or documents. Include annotations on the morphemes on which the substitution system is based, on whether they are successful and why, and examples of variants (e.g. generate your own love letter, generate your own corporate web site).

Graduate Student Reading

R. Schank and R. Abelson Scripts, Plans, Goals and Understanding (1977)(xeroxed handouts and on reserve) pp. 11-17, 42-66, 138-174. A script-based approach.

Joseph Bates' Oz Group Papers, especially the papers on "Hap" and story architecture.