Spelling as a Frame Story: The Alphabet of Death

Spelling as a Frame Story the Alphabet of Death ABC booksSpelling as a frame story? The alphabet of death? What on Earth is this twytte talking about?*

Frame stories. Sort of. A little. Maybe.

Tbh, this article is focused more on a particular type of frame story, which may not even totally qualify as a frame story (I don’t know. You tell me.). But before we get to that, I guess I better define the frame story.

I haven’t really talked about frame stories yet (at least, I don’t think I have), so here’s a simple metaphor: a family portrait gallery. The hallway (or, more precisely, the hallway wall) is the frame story, and the family portraits are the series of stories bound together by it. Along with the idea that they’re all related by blood or marriage. That’s more or less what a frame story does: it links seemingly unrelated stories (not talk about family. Sorry.).

If you want to learn more about traditional frame stories, click on the wikipedia article (“Frame Stories“) – at least, until I feel like writing about them. For now, I want to discuss spelling as a frame story even though I’ve never heard of it being formally taught as a frame story.

Why isn’t it taught?  I don’t know. It could be because it’s not a strong frame story – it’s more frame than story. Or popsicle stick frame rather than a professional one. On the other hand, I suppose it could be because the alphabet frame is primarily used for ABC books for early readers, and that doesn’t lend a lot of gravitas to the classroom. Or a novel.

But I’m here to prove that it’s not just for kids (Ok. I’m here to amuse, entertain, and, possibly, educate. I admit it.).

The Alphabet Or Spelling As a Frame Story

There are two basic frames in this category. The simplest and most common is the entire alphabet in alphabetical order. The second frame story method is more or less an acrostic put into book form.

The Alphabet Frame Story

This is where the ABC book comes in. If you’re a parent, or if you were a child (*cough*), then you’ve probably seen these. They go from A to Z, and each page features a word, phrase, poem, or sentence that starts with the letter featured on the page.

But it doesn’t have to be for kids, and it doesn’t have to be a book.

The Alphabet of Death

Yeah, honestly, this article was just an excuse to post that video…

The Spelling Frame Story

Or frame whatever. Like I said, this is an acrostic poem turned into a story, song, etc. The most famous one I can think of comes from  an old Vaudeville number followed by a parody gag by Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope on the Jack Benny Show.

Yeah, I’ve really only seen it used for humor. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be used for something serious. I’m open to suggestions…

Enough Frame Story for a Novel?

It sure doesn’t seem like it, does it? Even if you did, there are so many words in a novel, who would notice if the beginning of each chapter started with a different letter? Nobody. Not even if the first letter was as ornate as the ones in the Book of Kells.

Of course, then I started thinking about emphasizing the letter and how the letter could relate to each story… It would be a very silly novel, but it would be possible.

But what about serious novels? Impossible, right?

I don’t know. What if the frame is for a book series rather than a single story? Like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Series. Each book features a different letter: A is for AlibiB is for Burglar, C is for Corpse, etc. They’re murder mysteries, and the alphabet idea and main character link them together. Does that count?

What do you think? Is it a frame story or what?

*See what I did there?


  1. […] sense of urgency and frame story, word choice can be defined by its name – it’s the words you choose when writing […]

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