For most, a story is expected to follow a set of rules.

A main character emerges, endures some struggles and it all escalates to some climax. We are so accustomed to following this kind of plotline that we are blind to its limiting factors.

But, sometimes, a writer challenges storytelling at this basic level with multiple perspective narration. This narrative style tells the story in a series of coincidences and different character perspectives.

There is no main character, and there are no obvious overarching storylines– at least not at first.

Instead, the writer drops you into the world, as if you were people-watching.

The writer accomplishes this through multiple story arcs, each with their own main characters. All of the arcs eventually intertwine, the characters’ actions affecting each others’ storyline.

Two popular shows that employ this technique are Junjou Romantica, a popular boy’s love show, and Durarara!!, which is currently airing its second season.

Romantica’s story is told from the perspective of three different character pairs.

Each set of characters has their own story. For example, Misaki and Akihiko Usami are a romantic couple, and Usami is a childhood friend of Hiroki who is also Misaki’s literature professor.

All of the pairings hold sway over each other, whether it’s due to a past love interest, or one character happens to own a store the other frequents. Regardless of whether they realize it, most of the characters’ fates are intertwined.

This narration style stresses the deep bonds between characters while emphasizing the humour of coincidental encounters.

In the beginning of Romantica, Hiroki is in love with Akihiko, who rejects him because he is in love with someone else. This opens up the opportunity for Nowaki to step into his heart after a chance meeting at a park.

At the same time, Akihiko’s heart is broken because his love, Takahiro, announces he’s getting married to someone else. This allows Takahiro’s younger brother Misaki to get a chance to step into Akihiko’s life and take that spot in his heart.

The chance encounters deliver humor, exposing issues within the relationships.

Misaki somehow ends up encountering Akihiko’s entire family in separate incidences on the subway in the same manner. This allows Misaki to see  what is causing the strains in Akihiko’s family and why he is so vulnerable.

As the casual observer, you are able to identify underlying problems in each of their lives and why certain characters randomly explode in anger at the sight of others.

Yō Miyagi is also a wonderful example of this.

He works in the same office as Hiroki and has a comical “romantic interest” for him. He spurs Nowaki into action by pretending like he is going to steal Hiroki away.

However, Yō’s romantic interest is Shinobu, the younger brother of his ex-wife. Shinobu claims it was fate he fell in love with Yō after Yō saved him from gangsters.

Without this narration style, it would be impossible to connect deeply with the characters and the situations they experience.

Durarara!! employs this technique more forcefully with a stronger overarching story.

The opening to the second season of the show, Durarara!!x2 Shou, shows the coincidental encounters between  characters.

The original season was told from the perspectives of a cast of characters who are part of an anonymous online chat group. Ironically, they all know each other in real life.

Three of the characters are gang leaders, who are best friends, but are unknowingly at odds with one another because they are active in rival gangs. Another character is an information broker who fuels the wars between the gangs, and another is a bartender and bodyguard who hates violence and another is a Dullahan, a grim reaper-esque figure.

All of the characters meet because of their positions in society, and they often end up at each other’s throats.

The story is affected by the interactions between the main characters and how they help and hinder one another.The conflicts are usually spurred on by Izaya who views all of the characters as pieces on a chessboard. He manipulates each of them to achieve the desired outcome.

This is an amazing style of narration but is difficult to properly execute.

You have to make sure all of the characters share equal weight and power in the grand scheme of things. This prevents one main character from rising above the rest. The end result is a fantastic story where the audience never knows what is going to happen.

writersblocheadshots17Kaitlyn Peltzer is a junior English and criminology major and can be reached at kpeltzer@terpmail.umd.edu

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s