Wordworks's Workshop: The Tale as Truth

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This workshop is now CLOSED for entries.

Right guys, we have only had ONE entry for this workshop, which is a shame considering how good the workshop task was. Maybe time or January haze was an issue, but never mind now. What we want from all of you is a wondrous overdose of CRITIQUE and FEEDBACK on this one entry. There is no excuse, just have a good go at sharing your observations and thoughts about this piece and give some love to the only entry.


The Magic Spray Can By Brisp

Update 25 jan

Guys we have less than 6 horus left until the deadline. Please make sure you note us your entries before midnight GMT.

Thank you

wordworks’s Workshop: The Tale as Truth: Modern Folk Narrative


wordworks is a twenty-four year old writer living in Philadelphia, in the United States. She is currently employed by a private university and is working towards her second Masters degree. She has been a member of deviantART since February 2007. She likes coffee and Clint Eastwood; she would face a moral dilemma if asked to choose between the two.

The Tale as Truth: Modern Folk Narrative

Hello everyone and welcome to my Workshop! I'm elated to be appearing as a host and hope you'll find this week's task stimulating. The theme has hitherto remained a mystery, even to the Writer's Workshop staff, whose patience may be only be described as saintly. However, the time has come to throw down the gauntlet. First, we'll begin with a question.

What is a Folk Narrative?

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the term folklore refers to the "total of traditionally derived and orally or imitatively transmitted literature, material culture, and custom of subcultures within predominantly literate and techonologically advanced societies."

If that academic definition leaves you feeling dizzy, do not despair; you actually know more about folklore than you probably realize. The beauty of folklore is that it is the creation of a culture and exists in even the smallest cracks. This becomes apparent in the much more concrete definition of folk literature:

"it is transmitted by word of mouth and consists, as does written literature, of both prose and verse narratives, poems and songs, myths, dramas, rituals, proverbs, riddles, and the like. Nearly all known peoples, now or in the past, have produced it."

While the folktale may be transmitted in a variety of forms, what I would like to focus on for this workshop is the folk narrative</b>. This form of folktale takes many shapes itself, but familiar shapes. If you have ever read a fairy tale, been told a ghost story, or been passed an urban legend, you have come into direct contact with the folk narrative.

In fact, I wager many of you are already intimiately familiar with one of the first apperances of a recorded folk narrative, if you recognize the names "Hansel" and "Gretel".

True, it is common knowledge that story Hänsel und Gretel was published by the Brothers Grimm in the 19th century, but many people are not aware that it was among the many Germanic folktales collected by the brothers and adapted into the written word. In short, the story existed long before the Grimms. This is one of the major precepts of the folklore tradition: there are no authors, only performers.

:bulletblue: The Task: Create a Modern Folk Narrative

My challenge to you all is to create a modern folk narrative. Yes, I am asking you to become that forbidden "author" of folklore, but therein lies the challenge! Because a folk narrative is essentially a symbol of a culture and its values, I would like you to take a look at modern culture--any, but using your own may be the simplest approach--and craft a short folktale that you feel is representative of that culture.

Below I've compiled the basic characteristics of the folk narrative to help you get an idea of what I expect. On top of that, there are a plethora of resources on the internet alone, full of examples flowing in from a wide range of cultures.

The major ideological elements of the folk narrative are as follows:

1. The tale is the truth. A folk narrative is meant to be told and taken in the spirit of reality, regardless of any supernatural or even fantastical elements.

2. The mundane is magic. In many folktales, even the most unexceptional aspects of everyday life undergo a magical transformation.

3. The culture is the core. In its purest form, a folk narrative is a representation of a particular culture and its associated norms, taboos, beliefs, and superstitions.

4. The author is unknown. Because the folktale is told in the spirit of truth, it is believed to be without individual origin; it takes its shape from the performer rather than any creator.

When it comes to the actual structure of the folk narrative, there is no right or wrong way to construct the story, so long as adheres to the basic tenet of promoting some moral or message in the outcome. Hansel and Gretel, for example, conveyed the very real dangers of starvation and famine, breakdown of the family structure, and temptation of strangers. Often, the message of the story is open to interpretation.

The Russian folkorist Vladimir Propp (1895-1970) compiled a list of common themes, narrative units, and characters that appeared within those narratives. He introduced a Narrative Structure including 31 narrative units and seven character types. Joseph Campbell, the American mythologist, introduced the Seventeen Stages of the Monomyth particular to heroic narratives.

While I encourage everyone to research before writing, I by no means want to overwhelm the participants in the workshop. I think you'll find that the more simplistic the approach you take, the easier it will be for you to construct your folktale. Remember, a large percentage of these stories are told to children. I personally like New Zealand folklorist Moira Smith's idea of the folk narrative as "looking at the overlooked."

My rules are few and just as simple:

1. Only prose entries will be accepted.
2. The entries must be no longer than 1,000 words. There is no minimum, so long as the message is conveyed.
3. The narrative must be written in a modern setting.
4. The narrative must convey some message or moral related to the culture represented (if additional explanation is required, feel free to included it in your Comments section).

Good luck to you all. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to send me a note.

Additional Resources:

Folklore Societies and Programs

Full-Texts of Folktales

(The above are just a few examples. Folktales from virtually every region exist in full-text form on the internet. If you are interested in a particular region, I encourage you to do some browsing.)

How to Submit

After submitting your entry as a new deviation or scrap, send us a note with a link to your piece. Include the subject line "FOLK" in your note. The deadline is midnight 21 January 2009. All times are set for GMT. wordworks will respond to the entries on 25 January.

A note from Writers-Workshop Please note that this is a PROSE workshop, meaning that we will accept only prose entries. Proofread your work before you send it in so that grammatical and spelling errors are minimal. And most of all have fun with it!

:postit:On Accepting Critique

:bulletblue: Always thank the critic. This gratitude must be as sincere as possible, even if you did not like the critique given, because the critic has taken time to offer his/her opinion of the piece.
:bulletblue: If you do not like the critique, it is not necessary to mention so. Simply thank the critic and move on. You can always ignore their suggestions, while not making a scene of it.
:bulletblue: If you are unsure of what the critique means, feel free to ask the critic what s/he meant. Building rapport with your critic is one of the best ways to survive in a workshop and to learn. If you want examples, ask. Similarly, if you like the suggestions given, mention it. Critic's have feelings too. :)
:bulletblue: In the unlikely case that a critic offers rude/sexist/racist/etc comments, feel free to contact Writers-Workshop in a note and we will try to help you. A decision regarding the rudeness of the critique will be taken, and if we're not sure ourselves, we will consult with one of the GDs or anyone else high up on deviantART.

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starrsilver's avatar
agh, I can't believe I didn't get around to writing something for this! Curse you, exam week...