Commentary: The Structure of Time

“I’m happy to inform you that we have now established the structure of the story, and things should be much clearer from here on.”

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Curious reader, if you’re still hanging in there with me, I’m happy to inform you that we have now established the structure of the story, and things should be much clearer from here on.

In case you haven’t figured it out by chapter headings and in-text references, the structure of Angelfools is inspired by tarot cards. For those of you less familiar with the archaic divination device, a reader’s digest explanation: Tarot cards come in a deck of 78, featuring 56 Minor Arcana in four suits (rods, cups, swords and coins) and 22 Major Arcana numbered from 0 to 21. The cards typically feature archetypical characters and rich symbolism that make them well-suited (haha) to fortune-telling. Personally, I’m more interested in the story that the cards tell.

My story is an expansion of a long poem I wrote a few years ago that dramatized the so-called “Fool’s Journey” of the tarot deck. It was more linear in structure, moving from Key 0 to 21 in order and telling a story through the symbolism of the cards inspired by the “Legacy of the Divine” deck designed by Ciro Marchetti. But then as I was thinking about this story, I had a different idea: why not shuffle the deck?

Fear not; I haven’t shuffled the entire story beyond recognition. A writer may rearrange time completely, as Kurt Vonnegut does in Slaughterhouse Five, but I think a reader benefits from at least some linearity. I think my protagonist will, in any case.

So this is how the story will flow. We have now seen three timelines. In the first (and chronologically the last), Alex finds himself in the ruined city of Fortuna in the aftermath of a mysterious catastrophe. In the middle, Alex is the leader of Fortuna after a successful revolution. And in the last (and chronologically first), Alex is a callow youth working to set the future on its proper track by fomenting civil unrest. The timelines will correspond (roughly) to the numbered Major Arcana: XV-XXI, VIII-XIV, and I-VII.

Why did I choose this structure? Why not just tell the story in chronological order like a normal person? Well, I’m telling three different and interrelated stories. Each of them has their own separate rising actions, plot twists, climaxes and resolutions. They parallel each other with corresponding sets of characters and incidences. Plus, I think it’s more interesting this way. I’ve read a few stories where characters have prophetic dreams and then try to act on those dreams, and you probably have as well. Instead, Alex has a prophetic experience.

More on this later. For now, Viva la Revolution!

Author: Ben Ginsburg

I'm a writer, a storyteller, and a dreamer. As a recent graduate of UC Davis with a shiny new B.A., I decided its finally time to start writing that novel. So join me as I write, rewrite, and talk about it.

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