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Spatial Organization

Narrating your story effectively

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Storytelling is one of the oldest known forms of entertainment!

Add entertainment to your writing by considering:


Spatial Organization

Movies often begin with the camera focused on an individual. Do you remember "Forrest Gump"? The movie begins with the image of Forrest sitting on a bench with his box of chocolates talking to the persons next to him. As the camera pans around we learn more about the town in which Forrest has grown up.

The director uses the focused camera view to move from the smaller to the larger picture. This method of organization causes the audience to take a viewpoint and slowly expand it until the larger situation is revealed. Little by little audience comes to understand the complexity of the whole situation or story.



Now You Try it!  



Spatial Organization

Practice with picture Sequence






1. What is your first impression of the girl's situation in the picture?


zoom in


2.  What additional information can you guess about her situation?

Note that details are slowly being added revealing more of the girl's situation.

zoom out


3.  As you look around the room, what details are revealed?

(Your movement to the left adds more information, another person, and more information.)

pan left to mess

angry mom

pan left - catastrophe

pan left

4.  How does your impression of the girl's situation change?

big mess trouble

5. Reverse spatial movement.  (Pan left or right, and then zoom in on the girl's face and her expression.)

How different would the story be if the writer began with the larger scene and then zoomed in on the main character's face?




Big Mess panorama









Comments from Above Practice



Compare your first impressions to those of other people who visited this site.

1.   Viewers' first impressions: 

  1. The girl is surprised (by what is still unclear.)
  2. The girl is thinking. (adjectives: pensive, introspective, lost in thought)
  3. The girl hears something.


2.   Viewers' impressions of the situation as we look to the left of the picture where the untidy or messy state of the room is revealed:  the viewer wonders what connection the girl has to the mess. 

  1. Is she sitting in a place that is messy?
  2. Has she made the place messy?


3.   Viewers' impressions of the woman standing in the doorway: responses vary according to age and choice of perspective (whose shoes you want to stand in).

  1. The woman is angry because the girl is in her (the woman's) room.  (trespassing)
  2. The woman is angry because the girl hasn't cleaned up her room and is "goofing off" or wasting time.  (rule enforcement)
  3. The woman is the girl's mother and is frustrated because she sees a repeated behavior problem: laziness, messiness, distraction, lack of motivation.   (ineffective parenting)
  4. The girl is frustrated because her mother is intruding into her personal space.  (disturbance / imposition)

4.   Viewer's final impressions of the girl


 5.  Viewers thoughts about the sequence of focus:

  1. The focus is best when starting on the girl because we take her perspective or mindset before we have a chance to make a character judgment based on her room.
  2. It wouldn't make any difference whether you focus on the whole room and then the girl.
  3. The focus would be better to start with the mother and then move to the girl (so that we can understand the parental perspective.)
  4. The focus would be better to start with the whole room and then zoom in on the girl and "her world" (so that the writer would try to reverse our first impression of / judgment on the girl.)





Essay Assignment

Telling an Anecdote




Tell an anecdote, an entertaining story, about a situation that happened to you while you were growing up.




Use spatial organization to reveal the details of the situation beginning with the focus on your viewpoint and then expanding to include the larger context of the situation.





Sample Essay

Taking a Different Perspective

clean, empty bedroom


The "Shadow" in My Room

       When I was eighteen, finding a few moments to do what I wanted was difficult. With homework, college entrance exams and essays hanging over my head, I rarely had a chance to just sit and reflect or read a magazine. My room was my place -- my books, clothes, bed and all my stuff -- my place to relax.

   In my room, I knew where everything was. My clothes had a logical cycle: on the floor, on me, in the washer, in the dryer, and back to my floor. How else could I see what I wanted to put on unless I could clearly see it laid out on the floor? With so little time and so much to do my organization worked for me.

       The "shadow" was my mother who would suddenly appear at my doorway. It seemed that whenever I would sit down and relax for a moment, there she was! She never directly said, "Clean up your room." She would say other things like, "I'm surprised you can even find a place to sit in this room!", or "Is this your idea of order?", or "What if your friends drop by and see this?" These were questions to which I never responded. They were meant to motivate me to clean up my room, but they had no effect. This was, simply, not an issue on which we could agree.   Little did she know that most of my friends' rooms looked about and same.

       Later that fall, I went off to college, my roommate was very nice. We got along on almost everything, except one thing. She was a terrible slob! -- That's right, she was even messier than I was. She dropped her stuff on her side, on my side -- everywhere. It was embarrassing when friends from other dorms came to visit me. I had to shove her stuff, books, bras, hair brush and other personal items, back onto her side. One day, I came in and found her sitting on my bed reading a book and I asked her why she wasn't sitting on her own bed. She said, "There's no room on it." I frowned, and yes, I realized I had become "the shadow".

       Nothing I said could convince her to be less messy and stop invading my side of the room, which was very small like most dorm rooms. As a result, I often went home on the weekends just to have a little 'personal space'. I enjoyed being back in my room -- back in my space.

       One Sunday evening as I was packing to return to school I was very surprised to hear my mom say, "There's nothing quite as sad as a clean, empty room."