“Narrative Architecture” creative writing workshop held at Princeton University Writing Program

Within certain storytelling genres (such as fiction & screenwriting), there lurks an essential element that is often difficult to pin down. That element is narrative architecture, the structure of the story that — like the steel frame of a building — works to justify a plotline, and most critically, a character’s decision-making within that context. A self-supporting narrative architecture is a positive feedback loop that is capable of resisting an earthquake of scrutiny; a flimsy narrative architecture will collapse like a house of straw in a tornado.

On March 29, 2018, I gave a 90-minute professional development workshop on “Narrative Architecture” to Writing Center fellows at Princeton University. By using examples as varied as Portlandia, Vertigo, and Macbeth, we analyzed the plot and character dynamics intrinsic to narrative architecture, progressing from a single scene to a sequence of scenes. These examples  helped us answer the following critical questions:

What events must happen for a character to make a critical decision? How can you arrange these events to make that character’s decision justified?

With a deeper understanding of narrative architecture, we practiced analyzing a student fiction story and brainstorming how a Writing Center tutor might be able to give productive suggestions to a student attempting to write an engaging, efficient, and airtight story.

The main ideas of this workshop are currently being adapted to an essay format for future publication. Many thanks to the Princeton Writing Program for inviting me to give the workshop, and to the enthusiastic fellows who participated.

 

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“The Last Jedi’s snark problem” now available in audio for Medium members

Last week, my Medium post, “The Last Jedi’s snark problem” was featured as a “Staff pick” on the Medium homepage, after which it garnered a lot of traffic on the publishing site.

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Screenshot January 8, 2018, Medium.com

In a further honor, Medium editors subsequently selected the essay to be read out loud and recorded for an audio version, featuring the voice of professional actor. Should you have the time or interest, it’s quite the listen!

If you are a Medium paying member, you can listen to the audio version on the article page. Unfortunately, unless you sign up for a Medium subscription, you won’t be able to listen to it. But never fear — you can always still read the article the old-fashioned way!

You can read more of my Medium posts as they are regularly published at https://medium.com/@harrisonblackman, but www.harrisonblackman.com is still the central place for news and updates on my writing.

Thanks for reading!

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(Featured photo by Michael on Unsplash.)

View story at Medium.com

Read “Bridging Art + Education” and “Risking Life and Limb” in The Taos News

Every year, The Taos News publishes a series of special issues about Northern New Mexico’s history, art, and culture named ‘Tradiciones.’ The final issue honors people who have been nominated as “Unsung Heroes” of the community, including a “Citizen of the Year.”

I had the privilege of interviewing and profiling two of these “Unsung Heroes” this past summer, Claire Coté and Juan Abeyta. In very different ways, these two citizens of Taos County have contributed a great deal of their time and vision to their respective communities.

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Claire Coté at Wild Rivers. (Photo by Katharine Egli, design by Karin Eberhardt. Courtesy The Taos News.)

In “Bridging Art + Education: Questa’s Claire Coté inspires ‘awe’,” read about Claire Coté, an environmental arts advocate and educator based in Questa, New Mexico. While Coté is involved in an impressive array of community projects, her chief initiative has been the annual NeoRio event, which brings artists and participants to the dramatic landscape of the area known as ‘Wild Rivers,’ which is within Río Grande del Norte National Monument. There, in view of the Río Grande Gorge, the participants enjoy a community arts education experience unlike any other. Read the article here.

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Juan Abeyta in front of his station’s fire truck. (Photo by Katherine Egli, Courtesy The Taos News).

In “Risking Life and Limb: Volunteer firefighter and logger Juan Abeyta,” learn about Juan Abeyta, who has fought fires for 44 years in his native Peñasco, New Mexico. Aside from lobbying the county to build a fire station (which, after construction, was named after him), Abeyta has also enjoyed a long, dangerous career in logging. These days, he guides first responders down the the treacherous and byzantine roads in Carson National Forest, whenever he gets the call. Read the article here.

These two profiles are also available online through the ISSUU PDF viewer. (For Coté, refer to pages 30-33; for Abeyta, refer to pages 34-38). Special thanks to Katherine Egli, Karin Eberhardt, Scott Gerdes and Staci Matlock for publishing these stories and your help throughout the process. (Post featured image a photograph by Katharine Egli, courtesy The Taos News.)

Read “Southwestern fantasy: John Gaw Meem, Frank Lloyd Wright and Pueblo Revival architecture” in The Taos News

New Mexico is known for its Pueblo Revival architecture—rounded walls, Adobe finishes, and vigas (logs used as beams). The colorful town plazas built in this style evoke the Spanish colonial epoch and the heritage of Pueblo Native American architecture; they attract tourists and capture the imagination of those who witness them.

Yet the Pueblo Revival architectural style is a relatively recent invention, one that gained popularity in the early decades of the 20th century. It was also a design movement that was in many ways the work of one man: an architect named John Gaw Meem, who designed much of Santa Fe and the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque during his long career. It’s a story that also features famous architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolf Schindler, and it’s an article published in the Raices (Roots) issue of The Taos News’ annual Tradiciones publication, which celebrates the culture and history of the Taos area.

Read the article (“Southwestern fantasy: John Gaw Meem, Frank Lloyd Wright and the emergence of Pueblo Revival architecture in New Mexico”) on page 14 of the ISSUU version of the publication, embedded in the webpage below or available online at this link. Many thanks to Special Sections Editor Scott Gerdes, designer Karin Eberhardt, and photographer Katherine Egli that helped see this article to print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read “A trip around ‘Ancestral Circle'” in The Taos News

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Myself, gazing at Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Photo by Jesse Moya, Courtesy The Taos News. 

Last month, I had the chance to visit two spectacular Ancestral Pueblo (formerly known as Anasazi) ruin complexes—Aztec Ruins and Chaco Culture National Historical Park in Northern New Mexico. I chronicled my experience visiting the two parks and the town of Aztec, New Mexico in this week’s travel section of The Taos News. You can read about the stunning vistas, ruins, and locales in my feature story, “A trip around ‘Ancestral Circle’: Aztec Ruins National Monument, Chaco Culture National Historical Park and the big empty in between,” available on The Taos News website.

 

 

“In the Rearview” history series: 10 weeks of the fascinating and strange in Taos, NM

Taos, New Mexico, is not an ordinary American town. In many ways, it is anything but ordinary. A mountain town that is adjacent to one of the oldest continuously inhabited Native communities in the United States, an early site of Spanish settlement in the 1600s, and the home of prominent characters of the Wild West, Taos’ history is staggering. So it comes as no surprise that many interesting things have happened there over the years.

This past summer, as an Editorial Intern with The Taos News, I was tasked with creating a new weekly history column. Sifting through the newspaper’s archives, each week I found a prominent (or more often, weird) event from that week’s stories from 10, 25, and 50 years ago. In this endeavor, I uncovered such varied events as the mysterious “Taos Hum,” some macabre murder cases, archaeological discoveries, Mt. Everest rescues, deadly carnival rides, the arrival of the hippies, and many more. Here, you can take a look at some of the stories I dug up in the ten-article run.


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In the early 1990s, a mysterious low-frequency noise called the ‘Taos Hum’ began irritating Taos residents. The sound is still a mystery. Photo Courtesy The Taos News.

A thrilling mountain rescue, an investigation into the ‘Taos Hum’ and reactions to the Tijerina raid” June 22, 2017

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In the 1990s, this French cyclist biked through Taos as part of his often dangerous and thrilling globe-spanning journey. Photo courtesy The Taos News.

A terrifying lightning strike, a French cyclist on a globe-trotting journey and first contact with ‘the hippies’” June 29, 2017

A juncture in the Cabresto Dam saga, a curious anatomy class and an esteemed visitor from Spain” July 7, 2017

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In the 1990s, a local woman was mysteriously murdered. The case to find her killer was fraught with controversy and mystery. Photo courtesy The Taos News.

A snail-inflicted itch, a grisly murder and the return of the hippies” July 13, 2017

archaeology
Archaeologists outside the D.H. Lawrence Ranch investigate the ruins of ancient ‘pit-dwellers.’ Photo courtesy The Taos News.

An Amtrak incident, an author’s milestone birthday and an archaeological excavation” July 20, 2017

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In the 1960s, a fleet of Navion aircraft visited Taos for a ‘fly-in’—the largest assembly of aircraft in the town at that time. Photo courtesy The Taos News. 

A speedy search and rescue, a deadly carnival ride and a fleet of aerial visitors” July 27, 2017

A chocolate-obsessed bear, op-ed against a missile defense project and a mischievous land dispute” August 3, 2017

A Gorge Bridge inspection, ancient petroglyphs and Taos High School’s delayed 1967 opening” August 10, 2017

An Earthship bonanza, a missing girl and a snobby opera review” August 18, 2017

The legal saga behind a horrifying murder, B-1 bombers and the restoration of San Francisco de Asís Church” August 24, 2017

While that concluded my ten-article run, there’s still more stories I will have coming out of Taos, New Mexico. Stay tuned!