A Framing Device
is most commonly represented as a "story within a story": the main story exists as a tale being told within an overarching frame story. For example, a mother telling her child a fairy tale or an old man recounting his memories
of a war.
Usually, the main story takes up the majority of the narrative, with the framing story just being a shell - in other words, the only purpose of the framing story is to give structure and context to the main story, analogous to a literal picture frame that holds a photograph/illustration.
trope, however, is when the frame story suddenly takes over, replacing or becoming the main story. When the story of mother and the child becomes the main focus, showing that the fairy tales are their way of coping with the poverty of their real lives, or when the story of the war veteran takes over, showing how the old man struggles to relate to a world that seems to have moved on and forgotten his sacrifices.
Compare In Medias Res
and How We Got Here
- The film Forrest Gump starts off with Forrest recounting his life story to the strangers sitting next to him at a busstop. In this way, the movie is primarily a series of flashbacks, with the Framing Device being Forrest talking to people at the busstop. 3/4ths of the way through the movie, though, Forrest suddenly realizes he doesn't need to ride the bus anyway. The movie then starts following Forrest's life in the "present".
- The Emperors New Groove spends most of its runtime explaining how Kuzco became a llama and stranded in the jungle during a rainstorm. The remaining 1/4th involves Kuzco and Pacha reconciling and looking for a way to restore Kuzco's human form.
- In the short film The Cat With Hands, the movie starts off with an older gentleman telling his younger companion the story of the eponymous cat. The film ends with the cat getting the last part he needs from the narrator.
- A Cock And Bull Story is a Mockumentary about the making of a film adaptation of novel Tristram Shandy, which is itself a book about writing a book. The film begins focusing on the story of Tristram Shandy then gradually shifts to being about the problems of making the film itself.
- In Heavy Metal, the young girl who's being terrorized by the Loc-Nar's creepy stories inherits Taarna's role as a protector/avenger at the film's end, and the resulting resonance between her ascension and Taarna's Heroic Sacrifice destroys the evil sphere.
- The novel Hyperion by Dan Simmons uses the framing device of a series of passengers on a journey telling each other their stories, a la The Canterbury Tales. The entire novel is taken up by their flashbacks, taking place in the past. However, the sequel, The Fall Of Hyperion, then follows the pilgrims in the present, showing what happens after their journey.
- Interview with the Vampire: After the titular interview, the interviewer begs to be made a vampire himself, gets attacked by Louis. AND The Queen of the Damned, the direct sequel to The Vampire Lestat (which has a framing device which ends in a Cliff Hanger), drops the framing device of the previous book entirely.
- In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, the harper arrives at the bar to tease an old story out of the scarred man. It slowly becomes clear that she is looking for her own history and for information she needs to do something now.
- The Arabian Nights may qualify, depending on how you measure the significance of the frame's ending (when its a Happily Ever After conclusion).
- Assassin's Creed. While the individual games are about Desmond's ancestors Altair, Ezio, and Conner, the series itself is about Desmond. The stories of Desmond's ancestors only contribute to the finale of Desmond's own story.
- The Infocom text adventure A Mind Forever Voyaging. The player character is an AI which is able to accurately simulate the future to see how the government's economic plan will work out. Most of the game takes place in the projected future, then the finale takes place in the complex that houses the AI.
Needs More Examples
- "Gump Roast" from The Simpsons starts off with Homer telling Chief Wiggum about his past, before being taken to a roast at the Friars' Club for the remainder of the episode. The first part is modelled after the Forrest Gump example, so of course it is lampshaded by Wiggum, who addresses Homer as "Forrest Plump" and tells him it's illegal to impersonate movie characters.
. Probably Needs a Better Name