In David W. Landrum’s “The Understudy”:
The story might be adapted for the stage or screen as a drama. What modifications would a director need to make in order to accommodate the narration and the ‘play within the play’?
Aside from the play being produced by Adrienne and Selene, what other subsidiary dramas does the story recount?
Drama thrives on tension. What tensions exist within and between the major characters? How do even the minor characters contribute to the tension and propel the action?
What does the story show but not say about Elaine’s ultimate understanding of her boyfriend and her fate in real life?
In Ásgrímur Hartmannsson’s Error, the Bureau of Personal Information Protection might represent a generic “faceless bureaucracy” anywhere. Is there any hint so far that the setting is actually in Reykjavik, Iceland?
In Ron Van Sweringen’s “Only Scratching the Surface”:
“My sister had never called me Bobby in my life!” — How else does Barbara address her younger brother? What is the significance of Barbara’s using his name?
Bobby is a farm boy. Isn’t he old enough to recognize poison ivy when he sees it? Why does no one else say anything about it when he brings it to the dinner table?
On the surface, the story is an awkward joke about Bobby’s unfortunate selection of one element of his table decoration and a heartwarming but superficial anecdote about his pleasing his mother. How might the climax of the story be read as transcending the mundane? Hint: consult the author’s bio sketch.
In Bruce Memblatt’s “The Last Station”:
- At what point in the story can the reader plausibly surmise that Reardon is dead?
- How else might the ending be phrased? Can you propose a different ending?
David W. Landrum’s “The Understudy,” Bruce Memblatt’s “The Last Station” and Arthur Mackeown’s “Deadlines” all deal in some way with a story within a story. The narrative device may be very useful, but it can also be perilous:
- The plot of “The Understudy” revolves around staging a play, but the play itself is important only to the extent that it allows the ghost, Elaine, to have a part in it.
- “The Last Station” consists of the gradual recollection of a series of memories that, taken together, form a “backstory.”
- In “Deadlines,” the writer John Smith throws away a story because a local newspaper editor fears he might bring upon himself the disapproval of his wife.
What is the danger in “telling a story about a story”? How might a story within a story be useful?
Copyright © 2011 by Bewildering Stories
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