Posted by: Melany | October 1, 2009

Character, Time and Space

A successful literary journalism article must include the elements of Character, Time and Space.

These elements intertwine to create the tension necessary for the story to be interesting and to capture the attention of the responder.

My story is primarily character driven.

My article connects the relationship that each individual has with the art of magic, rather than their relationships with one another.


The characters are uncertain at the moment, however there will most likely be three to four characters and they will all be have a connection with magic. One notable character is Raymond Crowe, the successful unusualist that I have interviewed.

The beliefs, perspectives and opinions of these people will form the basis and structure of the story.

With each new person’s opinion or statement, I will investigate that line of thought. The piece will end with conclusions as to why these individuals like magic, why they are involves and why they think other people enjoy it.

Space and Time

In a nutshell, this is how the space helps develop the characters. The story would not work in any other space. For example, in the cult TV series, Sex and the City, New York is often said to be the ‘fifth girl’.

In my story, there is no obvious time or place as the characters are not connected through personal relationships. They are connected through their passion of the same art form.

In this respect, my characters have a similar story in different times and in different locations. The narrative structure of my story will be the structural events that drive the characters together – their similar or contrasting views on the same topic.

Contrast will form an important element of my story. The connection between the characters does not necessarily have to be a physical connection; rather separation is the force holding the story together. Space does not let them know each other; however, had they been closer they likely would have connected via their similar interests.

As the writer of the story, I am the linchpin to whom the reveal themselves. How I take on and respond to their separateness is what will link the characters together.

Interestingly, they are connected through the exact thing that defines what they do and their passion: that is, illusion.

All of these elements must combine to create the story. Everything I write is a crucial part of the story. Every quote I include, every mention of detail weave together to form a crucial part of the story. Every element combines to create the rhythm of the structure and the story.

Cave Nebula: Representing the indefinite options available to a literary journalist

Cave Nebula: Representing the indefinite options available to a literary journalist

. . .

During my HSC, I remember being told that I should SHOW the story, not TELL the story. This is an important distinction. Because anyone can write, “Bill likes playing sport.” It takes more skill to reveal this to the audience in a way that allows them to find the truth. “The green tennis ball rolled down the steps, stopping only after I trapped it under the arch of my foot. Bill waved down from the porch and asked me to throw the ball back up to him. From the sweat collecting along his brow, I knew he’d been playing for a while.”

I think that this will be an important to remember while writing my literary piece.

This can be seen in the introduction to The West Wing that Marcus showed us in class. The series starts with a brief introduction of each character, revealing an element of their personality through the location they are set in. For example, Rob Lowe is introduced in a bar, flirting with an unknown woman. This is indicative of a playful, charming character. Allison Janney is introduced running on a treadmill and speaking at a thousand miles an hour. Her run is interrupted by a phone call and she subsequently trips on the treadmill. This setting and her actions reveal that her character could be comedic relief and is most likely always on the go.

I think that the creators expertly demonstrated the idea of show, don’t tell with these introductions. Every detail from the clothes that they are wearing to the way they respond to a particular hurdle reveals more about someone’s character. I hope to do something similar with my character-driven story.

As I write, I will ask myself what my words are revealing – politically, sociologically and physiologically.

. . .

Marcus noted that successful writing comes from a base of Style and Soul. It is:





Successful writing and understanding comes from paying attention to the tiny details that others might not otherwise notice. Attempt to reveal something that happened just before – what is happening now – and what may happen afterwards.

Explore the relationship of the characters within the situation. Does it have an emotional tone? A serious tone? A comedic tone?

Explore the Events – Relationship – Tone and make them a key element of the structure of the story.

Furthermore, successful writing utilises different stylistic elements. These elements combine to make a story that says more than just what is understood by the words written on the page. They create deeper understanding of the topic and provide a way of delving into the worlds of the characters, space and time. Three of these elements are:



Layered Storytelling

Utilising these elements allows the reader to meander through the story and they show the contrast between different elements. They create movement between the images described and the details revealed. Using these elements allows different readers to respond differently to the story and to extract different things from the same story.

In my story, each of the characters will be revealed slowly. They will be introduced early; however more in-depth exploration will occur gradually throughout the story. I am hoping to provide hints to other elements of their characters – rather than just the blaringly obvious.

. . .

Marcus also discussed the use of VOICE to reveal the story. Changing the tone and the voice creates rhythm and interest.

For example:

Matter of fact reportage – (for example in the early parts of the Hiroshima story where primarily facts about the bomb were revealed)

Conversational – (almost humorous)

Meditative – (ruminative, thoughtful, allowing yourself to move with the flow of the story –for example, the story about the crash landing in the Hudson with constant references back to aviation history and wildlife)

Crafted – (Joan Diddion – who is a very conscious writer. All elements are carefully selected and crafted into a complete piece.

Marcus also reminded me of something that I need to remember:

The events, characters and places slowly reveal the idea. Let the idea emerge from the story you’re telling. Rather than stating in the first sentence: This story is about Magic.

I feel that that is a bad habit of mine and I aim to remedy that with this literary feature.

You don’t have to convince the reader of your purpose, nor do I have to reach a conclusion. Literary features are successful if they get the reader thinking about the story and the topics within the story. I want to encourage anyone who reads my article to think about magic, to take them on a journey of their own experiences with magic, how it is ingrained in our culture, without us necessarily being conscious of it. I want people to consider why they do or do not enjoy magic and whether they would prefer the world if it was really a magical place. I do not endeavour to convince them to train as a magician or to go and watch a magic show.

To do this I will use rhythm, tone, recurring motifs and chorus to link the story together.


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