Continuing the discussion from The Hero’s Journey:
Learning about Kishōtenketsu this in James Yu’s excellent newsletter (see here) and wanted to continue the discussion around the classic “hero’s journey” narrative structure as this offers a very interesting alternative!
Basic idea here:
Kishōtenketsu (起承転結) describes the structure and development of classic Chinese, Korean and Japanese narratives. It was originally used in Chinese poetry as a four-line composition, such as Qijue, and is also referred to as kishōtengō (起承転合). The first Chinese character refers to the introduction or kiku (起句), the next: development, shōku (承句), the third: twist, tenku (転句), and the last character indicates conclusion or kekku (結句). 句 is the phrase (句, ku ), and gō (合) means “meeting point of introduction 起 and twist 転” for conclusion. It is called giseungjeongyeol (Hangul: 기승전결; Hanja: 起承轉結) in Korean.
From James’ newsletter:
Instead of direct conflict at the center, it’s all about a twist, and a conclusion that doesn’t have to follow a straight line.
Structures like this intrigues me because it breaks us out of a (possibly) stale mode of thinking. The Hero’s Journey goes beyond fiction and seeps into all parts of life: from startup pitches to how we sum up a hard day to our spouse. Could a different fictional structure change the power structures of the real world?
In this vein, I’ve been enjoying reading the manga The Walking Man, which is, as you guessed, all about a man that walks across Japan. It’s a salve for conflict driven narratives. The man walks. He finds objects. Pets a dog. There are complications. But he doesn’t wind himself into knots trying to fix them. Sometimes they fix themselves. Sometimes they don’t. Unexpected things happen.
So — less arc; more twist! Complication, rather than explicit conflict.
Apparently a form commonly found in Chinese poetry, Japanese manga, and video game level design.