A Map to the Road Narrative Spectrum: 11/16/18
Visualizing the Road Narrative Spectrum remains a challenge. It remains a work in progress. I understand it, but I'm the one who chose to map narrative elements to the 216 colors that make up web safe colors.
If you do a web search for images of web safe colors, you'll see diagrams similar to what I've made here. The difference is, that my six groups are organized by the traveler.
Reading from left to right, are the 216 road narratives I am researching and analyzing. The top row of travelers: orphan, siblings, scarecrow or minotaur, are the most likely to be set in a fantasy or science fiction narrative. They are also the ones who have the most power to transcend the road and other expected means of travel. The bottom three categories feature stories with marginalized, family or romantic couples, or privileged travelers. These three groupings tend to be more realistic fiction or even nonfiction.
In the gap between the two neighborhoods, the places were powerful / magical travelers take mundane journeys and where mundane travelers go to extraordinary places or via extraordinary routes is where the horror genre typically sits. It's also possible that the romance genre (paranormal romances between women an minotaurs, for example) sit, but I haven't read enough of them yet to say for certain.
I've placed a link to the PDF in the blog's left navigation. It will always be there if you need a visual refreshers for my reviews or essays.
Comment #1: Monday, April 05, 2021 at 12:06:48
Your blog is fascinating. However, I've been returning a few times over the past few days hoping to better understand your terminology. Unfortunately, your definitions are scattered to-and-fro through the various articles in which you discovered them.
Travelling Party (2018) holds a brief description of the 6 travelers. Overall, they seem to be the most defined, though the scarecrow/minotaur seem to jump away from being part of a spectrum and instead be a counter-narrative.
Meanwhile, the second and third descriptors are harder to pin down. The second seems to represent either the starting point or ending point of the narrative (or perhaps a stop along the way?) This distinction is possibly subdivided between intents. Rural/urban describes the work's position on a common theme of road narratives, while the home/wildlands/uhoria/utopia describe instead a decreasing familiarity with the location, transitioning from drama to adventure. Utopia is, as described elsewhere, using the old definition of "no place" rather than the modern definition, which I assume means that the location is completely alien. Uhoria, a word of your invention meaning "no time," therefore must represent a story where the location was familiar, but has become alien while the protagonist was away.
For the third descriptor, I have found the least definition. It seems to describe the "terrain" of the trip. On the right, the trip is easy and featureless(?) but as the spectrum moves left, it becomes more complicated and distinct. Starting with the interstate, the path is worn and easy to understand, though it's dangers are more eldritch. You could be ruined by a complete stranger and never see their face and never see them again. The interstate has rules, and if you follow the rules, you're often okay. However, the interstate itself (through it's gatekeepers) sees everything. As the spectrum tracts left, the terrain becomes less ordered, then leaps into becoming unknowable. Ultimately, it comes to the cornfield, which I infer from other articles represents a leap-of-faith. By this point, the rules (if any) are unknowable, the dangers are unforeseen, and the destination could be the neighboring township, or the Land of Oz.
I don't know what you intend for most of these. I wish there was a defined glossary. However, I also suspect such a definitive source defies the purpose of the research, which is to discover the underlying definitions rather than impose your own.
Still, I'd like to know if my understanding is along the right track and perhaps help a traveler who comes to read this after me.
Comment #2: Monday, April 05, 2021 at 18:49:00
The road narrative spectrum project has evolved quite a bit since Traveling Party and even more since I first embarked on this project. Version 1.0 was begun in 1995 when I was a grad student at UCLA. Then followed a long hiatus from 1997 to 2015 when a friend encouraged me to revisit the project.
I'm no longer a film student and my interest has moved from visual narratives to written ones. That said, I spent the first three years of the relaunch of the project trying to recapitulate my research from 1995-1997. In the process I realized that plenty of people had already taken that approach in the intervening years and a lot of narrative voices were left out of that approach.
By the "Traveling Party" I was get closer to the approach I'm using now but I wasn't there yet. The analytical process is takes time and experimentation just like anything else.
Since this "Road Map" post, I've focused on a three axis description to categorize similar narratives. As I'm also a visual artist and an ex-web designer, the system I use happens to visually map to the 216 web safe colors. I do this to keep things simple for me. As I'm not in academics and this project isn't funded chances of me coming up with a different way of representing the categories is slim to nil.
Each narrative is described / categorized by these three axes: type of traveler, type of destination, and, type of route. There are six types of traveler: the orphan, the siblings, the scarecrow or minotaur, the marginalized, the couple or family, and the privileged. There are six types of destination: utopia (no place), uhoria (no time), the wildlands, home, rural places, the city. There are six routes: the cornfield / tkaronto, the maze, the labyrinth, offroad, the blue highway, and interstate / railroad. To how these three axes work to categorize narratives, check out the road reviews.
Regarding a glossary: you're the first person to ask for one. Writing one would obviously take time. Before the COVID lockdown, I was writing descriptions of the 216 narrative categories but I don't have anywhere quiet to focus with my family home 24/7. I did have one started in 2018 as a Google Doc and it's already out of date.