Each of the stories created within the Storium projects involve many distinct character personalities. These characters have a vital role in developing the atmosphere and plot of their stories, but in what ways is the manner of describing these characters useful to the stories being told? The development of characters is executed in a way that parallels and propels the action of each story.
The Storium narratives were created through collaborative projects in a freshman college writing course. For this, there were multiple groups, each inventing their own tales targeted towards varying audiences. A key component to any story, regardless of genre, are the characters formed within. Therefore, seeing as narrative tales generally include characters, it is obvious that each of the group projects includes wonderful examples of character development. Some of them include advanced character arcs that progress alongside the plot. All of them make use of ethopoeia.
Ethopoeia (e-tho-po’-ia), character representing, is “the description and portrayal of a character (natural propensities, manners and affections, etc.). A kind of enargia,” Enargia entails “vivid, lively description[s]” (Burton, rhetoric.byu.edu). The word “ethopoeia” originates from the Greek language and the beginning is “ethos” which is common in discussions of rhetoric. That portion of the word is significant because developing personas for the stories builds their individual ethos, and this supports later actions and events surrounding that character. It furthers the budding relationship between readers and people within the story.
One of the strongest instances in which this figure is used can be found in Group 1’s “The Violin.” The main character, Jink, is not just given a base level physical description as seen in, “Jink, a half Egyptian half Brit woman, is starting her first year at Shaffer Conservatory…and… is extremely gifted at playing the violin” (Soaser, storium.com). This is the first sentence of their narrative. It gives a description, situation in life, and an attribute. This attribute, her violin, is then further detailed when the author explains the very personal connection between the character and the instrument. “A gift imbued in her by her mother as her dying wish along with the only violin she’d ever owned.” That’s the second sentence of the story. Placing this much exposition and backstory in just those opening sentences immediately informs the reader that this character and this object are very important. It also foreshadows components that will be heavily involved in the storyline. Seeing as the connection was stated early on, it more believable that Jink “… senses something suspicious,” (Soaser, storium.com) when she realizes her violin is missing. Jink becomes distraught and “desperate to find her violin… after only a few hours of not holding it” and this extreme emotional response is completely believable for her character due to the words that establish her.
Another example of ethopoeia is seen in Group 2’s “Harmonia.” The main character, Diana, has a hidden passion for music which is described, and that in addition to situational opportunity lead to the main events of the short story. Aside from Diana, the most noticeable case for the rhetorical figure’s work is found with the illustration of Mr. Roccafella’s character. He is introduced with the words, “… ‘Roccafella’ came to be the most powerful family name in Indiana. Every day, Mr. Roccafella works to grow his company” (thePHEONIX, storium.com) .This establishes his strict business nature, and it brings about certain expectations for his character. It is entirely believable that he would consistently attempt to buy Diana’s land or offer her a unfair deal. Throughout the story it is possible to see how his thoughts and ideas change as he becomes familiar with Diana. By the end, his character has a complete reversal of values.
“An Unexpected Love” has preset character personalities that are known to both the author and the audience because it is a retelling. Anyone who read the original story already has an idea of how the characters will generally look and behave, so it’s not completely necessary for the author to write create detailed character traits, he or she only needs to follow the guidelines set by the tale acting as inspiration. On the contrary, in “The Tape,” there aren’t many descriptions of any kind in regards to appearances or particular motives for the characters. They are stated on the website but are not expressed as words in the story. Although, even though there seems to be an apparent lack of this rhetorical figure compared to the others, it works within it’s genre. The story is a suspenseful horror. The characters are mostly described by actions and emotions, mainly fear, as opposed to physical descriptions. One of the few aspects developed is the bond between the siblings and their shared goal. This allows the audience to have a more open interpretation and possibly place themselves in the role of the different personas. It also places the focus solely on the action.
Without proper application of ethopoeia, events within any story are not always believable. There could be a disconnect between what the story is trying to convince the audience of and what the audience actually believes is probable given the personalities and situations. However, reducing its use is also a choice that can be effective in some cases to create a necessary environment for a story, such as adding to mystery in “The Tape.” Either way, character development is crucial in all stories, and it becomes another way in which the audience can form connections to the events of the story.
Burton, Gideon. “The Forest of Rhetoric.” Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric. <http://rhetoric.byu.edu/>.
Soas, Alex, Jimmychanga, Unidentified, and Shallowocean. “The Violin.” Storium. <https://storium.com/game/the-violin/act-3/scene-1>.
Lee, Brandon, thePHEONIX, Vdman, and Brian Chong. “Harmonia.” Storium.<https://storium.com/game/harmonia/act-1/scene-1>.