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There are 216 road narrative stories (that I'm interested in): 06/08/18
When analyzing a group of narratives one must decide what counts and what doesn't. Throw too wide a net and one gets nothing but noise. Cast too narrow and one'll miss important forms of variation an exceptions to the rule.
After two and a half years of re-visiting the road narrative project I was getting a sense of what made a road narrative and more importantly which types of road narratives I was most interested in. Because of the apparent binary to road narratives I was at first trying to categorize everything into an either / or type lists.
And then last year I had a eureka moment. The human brain perceives color in a circular manner. Red and blue come in the middle of violet, even though on the light spectrum, violet is at one end of the wavelengths from red. So my reasoning was: what if narrative building blocks are both circular and linear depending on how they were looked at?
To test this theory I arbitrarily assigned the major building blocks of the road narrative. I assigned blue to what I was calling "on the road" thinking of the privileged masculine stories of Kerouac, Supernatural (especially the early seasons). As it's complimentary color / genre building block, I put "there and back again" which is the classic British travelogue type story.
In the middle of the color wheel, I left a swirling mess of colors for the areas of this categorizing I hadn't figured out.
Then I assigned the types of characters to those genre colors. For just over a year this first generation genre wheel served me well. It gave me a visual way of analyzing road narratives I was reading, especially the more usual ones like Kate Milford's Nagspeake set books, Kat Yeh's The Way to Bea.
But as I got further and further "off road" and further and further into other methods of travel, such as the cornfield and the maze and the labyrinth, I began to see that my initial genre wheel wasn't enough. It was essentially two dimensional when I really needed three dimensions to track the variations in construction of the road narratives I have been studying.
And that's when my designer mind came to the perfect solution: hexadecimal colors. Namely, the RGB colors that the web uses. Furthermore I had settled (through trial and error) on six types of building blocks for my three dimensions (or channels, if thinking colors): character types, destination, and, road. By keeping it to six each, I have a maximum of 216 basic narratives to worry about which I can color code with web safe colors.
How it works:
Each of these three narrative construction pieces are assigned a number based on who the story is about, where that character is going, and who that character gets there. For more complex analysis, one could color code at more finite gradations, say by chapter or even by scene to see how the narrative evolves over time.
As there are 216 web safe colors, there are at most, 216 types of road narratives that I am currently interested in for this project. Of those 216, I am most interested in the the ones at the most saturated "on" channels, the ones were extraordinary characters take extraordinary routes to get to extraordinary places.
You'll notice at at the bottom of the list of genre construction blocks, is the most basic, most generic road narrative: namely that of a privileged person (usually a young white man), going to the big city by way of an interstate. This is the story type I am least interested, and frankly, the one that has gotten (and continues to get) the most attention.
In my next article, I will define the terms used here and give more concrete examples of the stories that most interest me and a brief description as to why.