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2Autobiography and Creative Nonfiction

Autobiography and Creative Nonfiction

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Writing Autobiography: In-class activity 1

Bad Behaviour by Rebecca Starford not only advocates for multiple narrative strands and techniques but complexity of such instances that have been applied to the novel with a lot of characters and themes whose existential paths tend to collide. In Rebecca’s opinion, the more the number of intertwined narrative lines is a given page increases, the more her school life captures the attention of her readers—she uses these strands and techniques to achieve among other things, plot of the story. We begin looking at these strands and technique by introducing the novel’s parallelism, transitions and difference that exist between difference instances of bullying in the school and their general impacts. Taking a case where of the troublemakers Portia and Ronnie and in particular, Portia who for some reasons, Rebecca found affections to in as much as she was manipulative, the novel introduces the first case of its narrative strand by obliterating the traditional understanding or logic of cause and effect making the cause of relating with Portia more unpredictable. It seems as though Rebecca is casting die for a game between storytellers and decoding the story by her readers. As a matter of fact, the story around the three characters (Portia, Rebecca and Ronnie) are narratives which are not organized instead, they are circle around actions and in some cases, structured around these characters.

The plot, which according to the events Rebecca introduces to readers would fall in what can be termed as ‘multi-plot). The story describes events at Starford’s allocated dormitory, Red House where she finds her weird characters such as the charismatic bully Portia, her sidekicks Briohny, Ronnie and Sarah. Life in the dormitory begins multi plot. The role of bullying or what the entire book is about is developed in this dorm and form part of multi plot since Rebecca is not developing a central plot but one which is shared by almost all of the diegetic characters in the novel. The role of this strand or techniques is to show how her set of stories and the size of subplots (what can be considered as secondary narrative lines) interact to develop the main theme. Using this technique suggests that the book wanted to mentally develop events in the school so that they can conform to her writing patters and characters chosen which she has succeeded noting that in her efforts to impress them, she begins to behave as badly too and the treatment they consequently mete out to the vulnerable Kendall in particular is shocking and distressing. As much, it seems that generally, these writing techniques or the multiplicity in narrative strands are not adequately serving the approach of the very mosaic type narratives, which upon scrutiny are so fragmentary and playfully stimulating to any reader who would want to think how quickly Rebecca a fan of what she initially hated from Portia, her sidekicks Briohny, Ronnie and Sarah.

Bad Behaviour gives a different approach of multiple narrative strands and techniques. Looking at the events around the trick they play on six-year-old Libby and the slightly delayed daughter of Mr. Hillman who teaches at Silver Creek it is apparent that the novel is preserving a single, or intricate, complex but purposeful patterns of themes, links which regardless of the intention of the author, is after all a consequence of purposeful and meticulous planning on the part of Rebecca. We are seeing chains of events from the dormitory to the point when Rebecca fails to stand up for the little girl after cajoling the little girl into the barred-metal. This is what can be termed as multi-strand and technique to a novel with the aim of showing readers that there are more than one chain of events that are not mutually exclusive with the existence of different antagonists and protagonists. The objective of Rebecca developing these levels of techniques and multiple narrative strands was not only to enhance the subplots but to show that despite the fact that there are several characters who have more than overall significance as they occupy more read time, should not be confused with the typical secondary characters in the novel.

Writing Creative Nonfiction: In-class activity 2

The first tool of fiction Running in the Family uses is the narrative structures that have been embedded in method and style. Ondaatje has successfully divided his work into seven different parts with each part being short chapters, as short as one page. The decision to take this approach is to help the fiction create a narrative arc through the author’s narrative fragments of the fiction.

Secondly, it has to be recognized that Ondaatje’s Running in the Family gives an impression of post-modern work and as such the method and style bring characteristics of a post-modern novel which succinctly helps in the development of multiple genres and styles (pastiche) as one of the essential tools of a fiction as far as theme and characterization is concerned. Again, acknowledging the use of other literary writings (intertextuality), the self-conscious presence of the writer (meta-fiction), treating complex subjects from a point of dislocation and humor (when the author uses humorous tone) have been integrated well in the novel to bring about the aspect of fantastical elements into ways in which humans have inhabited Sri Lanka.

In developing the plot as another tool of fictional novel, the author use first-person perspective and as such, uses a character known as ‘Michael Ondaatje.’ The objective of using this tool is to make the fictional memoir brings about the feeling of small vignettes that when put together, develops an understanding regarding the narrative but again, about different themes the author develops. For instance, it is possible to see ways in which form and content are linked in the process of using different genres (journals, narratives, photographs, maps, epigraphs and poetry) in telling about the region where people could dance the tango, drink and gamble in the moonlight.

One of tools that the authors succeeds in using was theme and in particular, analysis of construction of identity, power struggles and generational divide. Taking chapter four (Eclipse Plumage) where a group of friends and relatives were at a wedding, and many of them were drunk. The author use the theme of generational divide as a fictional tool to illustrate that from the one hand, theme in fiction are rarely presented at all but the idea generated from the drinking friends have been abstracted from the details of actions and characters that compose the story during the wedding. The use of this tool is to help Michael Ondaatje provide unifying point around the characters, plot, setting and other elements of the fiction as organized during the wedding.

The action element that helps define the author’s narration is plot. Ondaatje manages to arrange the events that make up story that largely features Sri Lanka. For instance, in Chapter four Michael observed that he had an aunt who would tell great stories. In chapter five, the author relates the story of the aunt to a girls’ school in Colombo that accepted boys of five or six for a few years. Through these stories, the author shows a plot that develops into a struggle between opposing forces. It begins with exposition that help Ondaatje provide background information regarding what readers need to make senses of the action Ondaatje describes. As a matter of fact, when Ondaatje describes his favourite meal which was full of Ceylonese dishes then the plot begins to develop a series of intensifications or complications of the existing conflict that leads to a moment of great tension.

Reference List

Ondaatje, M., 2011. Running in the Family. Vintage Canada.

Starford, R., 2013. Bad behaviour: Taught by the best. Griffith REVIEW, (40), p.261.