English 333: Project Suite Project #3

Plot and Character Networks for a Text

Your assignment is to, as a group, create a “character network” visualization for the novel we are currently reading. In order to accomplish this, each of you will be assigned a specific range of chapters to track and complete. I would strongly suggest drawing and keeping track of these networks by hand. Don’t worry about anything digital at this point–low-fi is the way to go.

Once you compile your visualization into a single document, we will try one of two methods for presentation: Gephi or Microsoft word. If you want to do this in Word, see the directions below. Directions for Gephi will be coming soon.

Some chapters are longer and more complicated than others, but I have no way of determining that beforehand, so a lot of this is luck of the draw. Some of you will have fairly simple diagrams; some of you will have more complicated schemes. The point, however, is the larger whole that we create and what that tells us about the novel.

As a way of getting familiar with this, I would look at two things:

  1. Franco Moretti’s Hamlet network: http://litlab.stanford.edu/LiteraryLabPamphlet2.pdf
  2. My assignment and results for The Maltese Falcon: http://www.sadiron.com/more-adventures-in-low-fi-character-networks-and-text-visualization/

What should you diagram?

As you saw in The Maltese Falcon visualizations, I simply plotted three things for each chapter: characters who were physically present and interacted with each other (this was represented by a solid black, double-sided arrow), and characters who made references to characters who were not present (the first, or “primary,” reference was diagramed with a red dotted arrow, and all secondary references were marked with a blue dotted arrow).  I chose to keep track of these items because I wanted to see if absent figures were more often represented than present figures, and if so, what the balance was between the absent and present worlds.  For your assignment, you can follow this same model, or you can choose to diagram some other things for your chapters.

The Gist

You want to use this assignment to answer a specific question or to take a certain approach. Don’t follow my model unless it fits your needs. At the minimum, here’s what you will have and must do.

By splitting up the chapters, you will have a record of the chronological growth of the character network.

Keep track of which characters interacted. One long conversation in a chapter equals one interaction. This allows us to create your network’s “nodes.”

Also keep track of the number of times characters interact on different occasions–this will allow us to track the strength of their connections in the larger network, visualized as the networks “edges.”

Like I said, we will try to visualize your work in a program called Gephi. Instructions are forthcoming.

How to Use Microsoft Word to Draw a Character/Plot Network

  •  First, change the page layout.  In Word, under the “Page Layout” menu, click on “Orientation” and shift the perspective to “Landscape.” This will give you more room to work with.
  • Second, type some kind of header and/or key at the top of the page. (See sample charts of The Maltese Falcon.)
  • Next, you need to “Insert” a “Drawing Canvas” on which to create your network.  Go to the “Insert” menu in word; under “Shapes” you will find “New Drawing Canvas.” Once you select this, a large box will appear on the page. This is the canvas.
  • All you need at this point is basically contained under the “Insert” menu under “shapes.” There you will see icons for “textboxes” and a number of different lines, etc.
  1. I basically used 3 things: textboxes, a double-arrowed line, and a single arrowed line.
  2. Once you create a textbox or a line, the “Format” menu for “Drawing Tools” will appear. There is where you can change the color and style of lines, etc.
  3. When it comes to textboxes, it is up to you if you want an outline for the box or not (I removed them in The Maltese Falcon networks.) If you want to remove the outline of the box, click on “Shape Outline” and then select “No Outline.”
  4. Once you have text boxes, you can connect them with arrows—when you draw an arrow from on box to another, Word will “link them,” so then when you drag them around they stay connected.
  5. If using Microsoft Word in this way is new to you, I highly suggest creating a blank document and playing around for about 10 minutes or so. You’ll get the hang of this fairly quickly.
  6. What’s the benefit of the canvas? It allows you to drag things around, move them at will, resize them, and so on. I will provide a Word version of one of The Maltese Falcon networks for you to experiment with.

That’s it! Have fun and let me know if you have any questions at all.