REVIEW: “Diversity Plus: Diverse Story Forms, Not Just Diverse Faces” by Henry Lien

Review of Henry Lien, “Diversity Plus: Diverse Story Forms, Not Just Diverse Faces”, in Tod McCoy and M. Huw Evans, eds., Pocket Workshop: Essays on Living as a Writer (Hydra House Clarion West Writers Workshop, 2021): 93-100 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

The take-home message of this essay (one of the ones I was particularly interested in reading when I looked over the table of contents) is simply this:

Diversity can (and should) also icnlude different story forms drawn from diverse traditions (p. 93).

So simple, it almost warrants the response “duh” — but sometimes, the simplest facts are the easiest overlooked if they are never made explicit.

Of course, Lien doesn’t leave it at that: This fact is the opening of his essay, not the conclusion of it. In the remainder, he introduces the East Asian four-act story structure, contrasting it with the “Western three-act story structure and the five-act Freytag pyramid variant” (p. 94) (if you, like me, don’t know what the Freytag pyramid variant is, that’s okay, knowing what it is doesn’t seem to be essential). Like a lot of the other essays in this anthology, Lien takes a very practical, demonstrative approach, not content with simply describing the structures and talking about how they could be instantiated, but taking a concrete example — My Neighbor Totoro — and showing exactly how it does.

Lien’s piece leaves me itching to try this new structure, and thanks to his essay, I have all the tools I need to give it a go.