The Window Structure of Narrative Discourse
Life, the subject matter of narrative, is a massively parallel machine. Just as a computer may run several programs concurrently, a narrative may develop several plot lines; and just as a program may receive input from another program, the outcome of a line of actions may be affected by another sequence of events taking place at the same time but in another location. If we map a reasonably well-developed and complex narrative, the resulting graph will be a tapestry of converging and diverging, splitting and merging strands. But if life is parallel, its narration is sequential: only one line can be normally shown in the current "narrative window." The concept of window, borrowed from the familiar Microsoft operating system, can help us describe one of the most neglected aspects of narrative strategy: how discourse keeps track of concurrent processes, how it unravels the tangled knot of intersecting destinies, how it deals with the spatial mobility of characters and how it moves back and forth among the various sites where the fate of the storyworld is being decided. The narratological study of windows is concerned with two phenomena: 1. Window structure. Given a specific plot, mapped as a temporally ordered sequence of states mediated by events, the window structure determines how many different frames (or "takes") are necessary to present the story. 2. Window management: the study of how narrative discourse handles the succession of frames and marks the transitions.
Embedded Narrative and Tellability