Analysing Structure Of Stories Literature Essay

This chapter focuses on the structure of stories in different mediums. Storytelling and the development of media have alternately influenced each another, and each new medium has established a new kind of storytelling. A story is more than actions and events. The sequence of actions and events according to a meaning creates a specific kind of structure. A story’s structure is not the meaning of a fixed order but more the rules and the ways of combinations of events that creates a meaning. Therefore, understanding a story’s structure is important in the narrative development process.

Transmedia storytelling

The structure of each medium allows for a different performance and affects how the meanings of stories are created and shared. Performativity need not be solely on the stage. Auslander stated that we live in a mediatized world, and that performance has spread across media, infecting the other media with performative spontaneity from both performers and audiences (Auslander, 1994). The stories we have heard, seen and read in a single medium have not lacked impact, but incorporating several media offers a whole new experience as Jenkins mentioned about transmedia.

Transmedia is a term coined by Henry Jenkins to describe how stories can be told across media in such a way as to take advantage of what each medium do best. As Jenkins stated,

“Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.” (Jenkins, 2007)

With transmedia experiences, where it is basically impossible for someone to have expertise in every medium, we may actually see a strengthening in the individual media as authors and artists focus on their expertise and return to specializing and mastering their medium of choice (Davidson, 2008). This means that the choice of media is not by content of the story but more by the expertise.

Although the term transmedia emerged in the 21st century, the characteristics of transmedia can be identified in the wayang tradition. Mrázek stated that the media or the arts are more like artistic techniques than materials, or more like musical instruments than sound waves. He stated that the media in wayang – narration, dialogue, puppets and puppet movement – and their particular ways of working and functioning are creations of an artistic tradition, rather than universal, pre-existing categories (Mrázek, 2005). Puppet movement and puppet compositions, narration, dialogue, and music are combined and used to build the whole of the performance. Narration and dialogue appear to be in a class apart because they both use verbal language; but the case is not as simple. During both of them, the puppets are on the screen, and both the narration and the dialogue closely interact with the images. In the case of the dialogue, this is immediately obvious: it is the characters, acted by puppets on the screen that are represented speaking; the voice and the words are ‘fused’ with them. In the case of narration, the interaction with the visual image is also close; the narration describes the scene and the characters and their actions, and is always closely juxtaposed to the visual images. Dialogue and narration are never quite purely verbal media – they are connected to the visual images and constantly interact with them. However, if we want to see the separation between the media more clearly, we can look at the structuring of the performance in time. There is a very clear separation into three kinds of moments that what could be called:

Narration moments

Dialogue moments

Puppet-movement moments

During the puppet-movement moment the opening of the audience is represented in the medium of puppet movement, and there is no dialogue and no narration; then the dalang or the puppeteer narrates (the puppets are immobile, arranged into pictorial composition), and then comes the dialogue, during which the dalang only moves the hands of the puppets. The moments are represented by periods of music. In each of the moments, one medium comes to the fore, even though it is not necessarily in any ‘pure’ form, that is, the other media may play a minor function. The media themselves are rarely clearly separate, but the different moments (in each one medium predominates) are (Mrázek, 2005).

In this study, the web is used as a medium to revive traditional storytelling with puppets. Virtual worlds cannot substitute the rich experience of performing with real puppets and a face-to-face audience. But instead this study wants to ponder the potentials of the web and its design for this field. This study is also inspired from statements from Brenda Laurel. The performative nature of the web, one type of hypertext and hypermedia on computers, has led Brenda Laurel to look at computers as theater. For Laurel, computers have the “capacity to represent action in which humans could participate” (Laurel, 1993, p. 1). The readers are performers within the hypertextual narrative, shaping the actions and outcomes by the choice they make.

A part of this study also focuses on the structure and process of narrative in hypermedia, in particular the web, and explores the potential application to support telling stories. Hypermedia refers to dynamic multimedia objects that have hypertextual aspects. As Landow and Delany stated, hypermedia is a multimedia extension of hypertext that is more complex and interactive, integrating visual and auditory experiences as well as text and links to give more contextual synthesis of the information explored (Delany & Landow, 1994). For example, a web page with java scripting and interactive graphics, videos and sounds is a hypermedia object (Davidson, 2008). A characteristic of hypermedia is non-linearity structure, which allows us to navigate through an information space using associative linking. This leads to idea of intertextuality as we describe in the next section.


Intertextuality refers to the numerous implicit references in each text to other texts. No text is written completely isolated from other texts and can stand entirely by itself. Hyperlinks in hypertexts and hypermedia documents emphasize such intertextuality in a way that is impossible in printed texts: they can lead directly from the hyperlinked terms, phrases or images to other contexts in which the same terms, phrases or images are meaningful, whether inside or outside the given hypermedia work itself (Delany & Landow, 1994).

Intertextuality can also be understood as the process of drawing on one’s experience with multiple texts and making connections between these various texts and the present text being experienced (Davidson, 2008). Long and Strine illustrated how the process of experiencing a text necessitates that the audience brings an intertextuality to bear in order to understand the text being experienced (Long & Strine, 1989). When we read a book, we bring our intertextual experiences of all the other books we have read to play with the current text itself, and from this playfulness, we assemble a deeper meaning of the text(s) involved.

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The appreciation of traditional textual objects, such as novels and films, is dependent to a certain measure on the decoding of intertextual references to other media in these texts. Thus, the pleasure of consuming these texts can be seen to be contingent to a certain extent on the user’s ability to identify and decode these allusions. This intertextual element also exists in new media, especially since media content is increasingly brought to the consumer through different channels simultaneously.

Intertextuality can be found in wayang tradition also. For example, a character is used not only in one story; he or she can appear in different stories with different meanings and actions. A story is a part of another story or a story is a biography of an actor from another story. For this study, we want to use this characteristic in the system to provide a suggestion to children when they want to combine or connect stories. A theme of a story or actors in a story will be proceeded to bring out suggestions. With this kind of suggestion, the process of story-building is expected becomes simplified.

Structure of a story

Stories impose a structure on the events that we narrate so that listeners (including the storyteller) can understand them, and thereby gain some particular perspective on the events (Polanyi, 1989). A schema of narrative composed of four characteristics: setting, character, theme and plot (Davidson, 2008). Event schemas or scripts are knowledge structures which even very young children use to organize their general knowledge about events. Scripts also guide children’s comprehension and their recalling of stories about familiar events (Hudson, 1988). A story’s structure as a topic of education fosters the ability to detect a meaning by reading.

Models for developing good stories have been proposed for thousands of years. Around 2300 years ago Aristotle wrote his treatise called Poetics, in which he focused on tragedies, or serious drama.

Many aspects of poetics are useful for authoring multimedia stories as well; the most important being the plot. According to Butcher, Aristotle said that “[…] for by plot I here mean the arrangement of the incidents […] But most important of all is the structure of the incidents […] so the plot, being an imitation of an action, must imitate one action and that a whole, the structural union of the parts being such that, if any one of them is displaced or removed, the whole will be disjointed and disturbed.”; and every story must have a beginning, middle and end (Aristotle, 2008; Lee, 2001).

In the next section, a structure of a dramatic work such as a play or film, focusing on Gustav Freytag’s analysis of ancient Greek and Shakespearean drama is discussed. The discussion continues by analyzing the geometric structure variations of stories.

Freytag’s Pyramid

Freytag’s Pyramid (see Figure 3.1) is a way to analyze a plot that consists of five elements in an ascending and descending manner, introduction (exposition, inciting moment) – rising action – climax – falling action – denouement (catastrophe, resolution) (Freytag, 1900). In the introduction, the plot, characters, and complications are introduced. This leads to the rising action, or the events that lead to the climax of the plot. At the point of highest dramatic tension, or at a major turning point in the plot, the audience finds the climax. This decisive moment in the narrative is when the rising action is reversed to falling action. The falling action, then, is made up of the events that follow the climax and lead to the denouement. The final outcome, result, or unraveling of the main dramatic complication is called the denouement. The denouement may involve a reversal in the protagonist’s fortunes, usually as the result of a discovery (recognition of something of great importance previously unknown) by the protagonist.

Figure 3.1. Frytag’s dramatic pyramid

Frytag’s dramatic pyramid can be used to analyze the dramatic structure of wayang performance. Wayang performance in general has three acts: Pathet Nem, Pathet Sanga, and Pathet Manyura. The performance usually starts at 9.00 pm and will be end at 4.00 am. The following part describes the structure of a wayang performance in detail:

Act One (Pathet Nem)

Pathet nem is symbolizing childhood, performed from 9 pm until midnight, and consists of 6 scenes:

Jejeran Raja: symbolizes that the baby begins to be accepted and nurtured by his mother.

Paseban Jawi: symbolizes a child who is already getting to know the real world.

Jaranan: symbolize the immature nature of children.

Perang Ampyak: symbolizes a child who has begun to mature.

Sabrangan: symbolizes a child who has grown but his character is still dominated by emotions.

Perang Gagal: symbolizes a person who does not yet have a definite purpose in life.

Act Two (Pathet Sanga)

Pathet sanga is symbolizing adulthood, performed at midnight until 2.00 am, and consists of 3 scenes. In this act, the hero is thinking about problems, and subversive clown figures enter and dispense wisdom and ribald humor.

Bambangan: symbolizes a person who has begun to obtain knowledge.

Perang Kembang: symbolizes a growing adult.

Jejer Sintren: symbolizes a person who has set a goal in his life.

Act Three (Pathet Manyura)

Pathet manyura is symbolizing seniority, performed from 2.00 am until 4.00 am, and consists of 3 scenes. This act contains resolution of conflict/problem with many battles.

Jejer Manyura: symbolizes a person who already knows the purpose of his life and is close to achieving his dreams.

Perang Brubuh: symbolizes a person who has reached his life goal.

Tancep Kayon: symbolizes a person who has died.

In this study, it is of interest to look at the process of performance of the wayang story rather than at the dramatic structure of wayang stories. The story of wayang is performed in a linear process, always starts from act one, continues with act two and ends with act three. But there is still a possibility to change the story’s sequence for some stories. In wayang there are four types of play or Lakon:

Standard play (Lakon Pakem) is played strictly following rules from the book.

Improvisation play (Carangan) is played following the rules with improvisation.

Contemporary play (Sempalan) is played completely out-of-the-book.

Biography play (Lakon Banjaran) is played covering a biography of a certain figure.

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Wayang stories besides having the linear structure also have a non-linear structure, e.g., a contemporary play. This situation gives us an opportunity to perform wayang stories in a medium that supports non-linear structures, e.g., the web. Before the exploration of story structures which are appropriate with the authoring tool is proceeded, the variation of story structures will be discussed in the next section.

Geometric design structures of stories

Every story has a structure that can be visualized as a process. Linear stories have linear processes; non-linear stories have non-linear processes. Ten geometric structure variations from Samsel and Wimberly is explored in this section: sequential, branching, conditional branching (branching with barriers, branching with forced paths, bottlenecking, branching with optional scenes), exploratorium, parallel streaming, worlds, and multilinear (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998).

Sequential (Linear)

Sequential structure is the basic building block of both interactive and linear media projects as shown Figure 3.2. User navigation follows a strictly defined procedural path – one after another. The user cannot jump from node A to node C, for example, without having first traveled across node B.

Figure 3.2. Sequential structure

Sequential with Cul-de-Sacs

Sometimes a linear sequence of nodes can diverge into isolated nonlinear deviations – offer the user the choice to step off the procedural path into areas that in no way fulfill the critical objective of the piece. Such digressions are called cul-de-sacs – usually puzzles, games, or sidebars that explore the themes of the work, but in no way affect the outcome of the story or objective of the work.

The interesting thing about a cul-de-sac is that its entrance is also its exit, as shown in Figure 3.3. This applies to interactive cul-de-sacs as well and is especially important for the software designer who is trying to help us tell an interactive narrative.

An interactive corporate training title, for example, might have a node that demonstrates a crucial concept. Several key words or phrases within that node may be “hot”. Clicking on one of the words might send the user to another node that shows that word, along with its definition. This sidebar or footnote has no impact on the training lesson itself. It is only there to enhance the user’s understanding of the key words and phrases contained in the material. Once the user has finished reading the definition, he or she has only one option – to return to the lesson.

Figure 3.3. Sequential structure with cul-de-sac (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998, p.25)

Many children’s edutainment CD-ROMs, such as Mindscape’s The Animals! use sequential storytelling techniques – e.g., a trip to the zoo – and link them to archived data (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998). A child can travel through the story and click on an object within a scene. This action will transport the child to a cul-de-sac – a self-contained node of information such as a video clip of a lion, a photograph of a pelican, an audio clip of a monkey, or a text description of a polar bear. Once the information has been delivered and digested by the child, it can either replay the information or return to the main body of the zoo story. The cul-de-sac simply enhances the user experience.


In an interactive program, branching offers the most rudimentary course of extending how users navigate throughout the program. In a typical branching structure, the user is presented with several choices or options upon arriving at certain predesignated “Forks in the road”. Based on which path the user chooses, the program follows a new node of content.

Figure 3.4. Traditional branching structure

Branching structures are popular because they easily demonstrate the fundamental concept of interactive theory – user choice. Namely, when confronted with a path decision, the user must choose one from several options – A, B, or C – in order to proceed to the corresponding node, as shown in Figure 3.4.

The danger of branching structures is that they can spiral out of control very quickly. Author Neal Stephenson refers to this type of structure as the “tree of death”, where the story line keeps forking until there ends up being an unmanageable number of outcomes (see Figure 3.5).

Figure 3.5. Extended branching structure (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998, p.26)

Conditional Branching: Branching with Barriers

A subset of branching is conditional branching, which requires the user to abide by the rules of a predetermined condition along the branch in order to proceed through the program. Often, these conditions are puzzles or other obstacles that are slapped down in the middle of the application. The user is forced to solve the puzzle before he or she can continue (see Figure 3.6).

Figure 3.6. Branching with barriers structure (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998, p.27)

Conditional Branching: Branching with Forced Paths

Conditional branching often limits user choice in other ways. While appearing on the surface to offer many choices and options, the program will often continue regardless of the user’s actual choice. In essence, the program offers the illusion of choice without actually allowing the user to alter the program in any way. The validity of interactivity is strictly limited by the “choices” offered by the writer.

Figure 3.7. Branching with forced path structure (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998, p.28)

A branching structure as seen in Figure 3.7 using “forced paths” or critical paths offers the end-user more options and/or more paths to choose from, but only one solution advances the story.

Conditional Branching: Bottlenecking

Another type of condition placed on branching structures (especially when the structure is used in an interactive narrative) manifests itself as “bottlenecking”. Bottlenecking is when various branching nodes are brought back into the spine of the story in order to “rein everything in”. This is a crucial structural procedure when you consider the exponential possibilities created by traditional branching structure (see Figure 3.8).

Figure 3.8. Branching with bottlenecking structure (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998, p.29)

When the various story nodes are folded back so that they converge into a single story spine, the interactive narrative becomes more manageable. This type of design structure has been implemented in a number of popular media games and “interactive movies” over the past several years, including Origin’s popular Wing Commander series (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998).

Conditional Branching: Branching with Optional Scenes

Sometimes the user gets to choose between alternative scenes that spin out from and return to the primary spine of the application – whether that spine is a story (as in an interactive narrative) or an objective (as in an informational multimedia application such as a training title). Alternative scenes are commonly found in education and training programs, where it is necessary to demonstrate numerous concepts (see Figure 3.9).

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Figure 3.9. Branching with optional scenes structure (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998, p.29)


Exploratorium is empowering structures that allow the user to “pause” during the program to explore a “world within a world”. Many interactive storybook titles utilize exploratoriums – from the humorous Living Books titles, Arthur’s Birthday and Just Grandma and Me to Disney’s Pocahontas Animated Storybook to simulated environments such as Imergy/Simon and Schuster’s Star Trek Captain’s Chair (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998). The exploratorium structure can be seen in Figure 3.10.

Figure 3.10. Exploratorium structure.

Letters A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H are “hot spots” or entertainment

click-ons imbedded into program (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998, p.32).

Parallel Streaming

Parallel streaming describes many “states” or paths that exist simultaneously at various levels within the same application. In an interactive narrative, this type of structure allows the writer to create a single linear story, while allowing the user to switch between perspectives, paths, or states. The user can then experience the same series of events from multiple points of view (see Figure 3.11).

Figure 3.11. Parallel streaming structure (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998, p.33)


When two or more environments are interconnected by a common thread – be it a theme, goal, mission, or story – we have the basis for a world structure. Add to that world series of predefined events or tasks that the user trigger/accomplish in order to move the story or mission forward and you have a design structure that works very well with interactive media programs (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998).

In a world experience, exploring the surrounding is just as important (and fun) as completing the story or achieving an objective. This poses a unique set of problems for the writer.

Figure 3.12. World structure.

Notice that the world is in the shape of funnel (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998, p.36)

The player is free to roam through an enchanting environment in search of clues to the story. The act of exploration is just as important as the act of discovering the narrative. Each activity has equal merit. The player advances the story by triggering certain author-defined events. Exploring all the worlds, uncovering all the clues, and interacting with all the triggers leads the player to the end of the game (see Figure 3.12).

Another way to look at a world structure would be an overhead view, as if looking down into the center of a funnel or cone. The plot points or tasks that user must accomplish are represented by the eight outer nodes. The eight inner nodes in the carousel represent the next set of tasks (see Figure 3.13).

Figure 3.13. Carousel entry into a world structure (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998, p.37)

Multilinear or Hypermedia

Another type of design structure, known as multilinear (see Figure 3.14), either encompasses every type of user path imaginable or no path at all. The World Wide Web, hypertext fiction, MUDs (multi-user domains), MOOs (Multi-user object-oriented environments), and many simulations are good examples. Multilinear structure demands a different kind of involvement from its user than do puzzles, branching games, or linear narratives. That is because it is the users themselves who must traverse their own unique paths through an environment. The writer sets the boundaries and rules of interactivity, but the users must chart their own course through the material.

Hypermedia structures, in much the same way as the World Wide Web or a hypertext fiction title, allow the user to become an interactor – a facilitator of the story. While surfing the web, the user decides which homepage to start from and selects which links to follow through the electronic universe. User action determines a pathway through the material. Similarly, hypertext fictions are about the journey as much as they are about the narrative that waits to be pieced together.

Figure 3.14. Multilinear and hypermedia structure (Samsel & Wimberly, 1998, p.39)

Relevance to the research

One of the lessons that has been learned from this section is that the sequence of events and actions is important in a story. This sequence leads the reader to follow a dramatic flow of the story. There are causal connections between the events or ideas in the story and these connections tend to be related to the main elements of the story. Through these comprehension processes, readers develop an understanding that extends beyond words and sentences, to reach comprehension of paragraphs and extended text. This knowledge forced the researcher to design a space for children to learn and to practice in building a story’s sequence in order to support them their narrative development.

A good plot and dramatic story structure of a story will keep the readers’ curiosity and their emotional engagement. When a user accomplished a task by using a computer, she/he followed a certain sequence process which is offered by the system. The actions and events of the system and user build a kind of story. It is needed to keep the user attention and their engagement with the system in order to reach their goals. Therefore, the researcher found that the knowledge of the story’s structure and the dramatic flow can be used to design interaction between user and system.


This chapter introduced a conceptual thinking of transmedia storytelling from Jenkins which described how stories can be told across media in such a way so as to take advantage of what each medium does best. The stories we have heard, seen and read in a single medium have not lacked impact, but incorporating several media offers a whole new experience.

A schema of narrative composed of four characteristic: setting, character, theme and plot. The four characteristics are the building blocks of narrative. Event schemas or scripts are knowledge structures which even very young children use to organize their general knowledge about events. This chapter has explained the dramatic structure from Freytag and explored ten geometric-structured variations of stories from Samsel and Wimberly: sequential, branching, conditional branching (branching with barriers, branching with forced paths, bottlenecking, branching with optional scenes), exploratorium, parallel streaming, worlds, and multilinear.

In wayang tradition, multiple non-linear structures can be found within wayang stories. The audience can follow its own combinations of presented and remembered additional stories according to their own experiences and knowledge. This study focuses on analyzing whether the same character in different stories can enable a similar multiple storylines as well. The concept of intertextuality in this context will be used to provide suggestions for children to help them to build multiple storylines by character.

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