I've tried to write this post before. In fact it is probably still sitting in around somewhere collecting year-old dust. But here goes another attempt.

Today I was reading a variety of reviews all on the same thing. Or more like skimming. These reviewers all encountered the same... thing, it, object. And a lot of the reviews sounded rather similar in their praises and objections. You could find a parallel in their experience. Some skewed farther in the way they reacted to these things than others, but you could clearly see the external experience was consistent if not precisely the same internally, or in other words their reaction to the outside experience varied.

However, an area in which they greatly differed was how they portrayed the quality of the story.


I love stories. Or I think I do. But what is a story? What are the true, essential, elements of a story? And I do not seem to love all stories. Why is that? And what makes me love or hate a story? Or feel nothing at all? Or ignore the story for the sake of its trappings?

Okay, I'm done with that paragraph. Sorry. You will often hear people say, this movie had "a great story." And turn around and hear someone else say the story was unoriginal, or nonexistent. Who's right? Why is there the difference in their internal experience.

I think I have come to the resolution that when most people say if a story is good or bad, they are not in fact talking about the story. And I don't think it is actually common for people to fully realize what makes them enjoy a story. Now I do not say this to sound superior to others. I say this to admit my own experience. I do not myself understand my likes and dislikes. Thus why I ask my questions above. Perhaps others are far more in tune with their pleasures and I am transposing my own vague self-understandings on them.

Now to change direction yet again, I also think when people talk of the story in the context of saying it was a good or bad story, they actually intend to mean some ratio between the plot and the character presentation/growth. Not that they are saying anything about the ratio, but that people themselves have a ratio of the two they focus on (some people are more plot driven in at least their definition of a story and others are character driven (for some of the plot people they may love them some characters but they consider that separate from what they call the story). So when they say, "that movie had no story" they are actually saying there was no real driving plot, or in depth characters or growth of characters, depending on their personal concept of the word story, or at least in that particular usage. This is a point that could be discussed much longer, but I'd recommend talking to someone much smarter and more precise with their language.

The point I would like to make though is I am not sure that this limited view of Story really satisfies the bounds of the idea. Why is it that a creator can make an interesting and beautiful world, but struggle with the plot and we say it has no story? This created world is part of the story. Heck even something like costuming is part of a story. What I am trying to say is that the whole thing is the story. To say something has no story, well obviously it is a form of hyperbole, but I think it is a damaging concept to try and get at what Story is.

Now I may just be arguing semantics, but it goes back to my point that when people say there is no story, they don't really mean it. However it probably steers my reader away from my stronger intention behind this.

Though, now that I think about it... Hah. Umm... Okay, how do I explain this one.

So, I said when people say, "this movie had a good story," they are intending a limited view of the idea of story, but they also are not getting at what they liked or disliked but are talking about other things, which I believe I just argued (though not completely, exhaustively or with even a degree of precision) is actually part of the big Story. Curses... I think I am confused.

Basically, I just totally changed what I was saying mid-write.

And to rewind, (I am exemplifying non-linear storytelling for this post) one definition of a story is in fact the plot. I am aware of this. So really one of those earlier points up there is completely and entirely false, but I am trying to get at a concept in my head that just won't break loose. Hopefully it did something to you. Err... something helpful.

Okay this post is starting to fall apart fast. And I have nothing to bail the water out with...

I still have so much more stuck in my head to pry at. And unfortunately if I attempt to talk through this verbally I just end up talking in circles and saying things I entirely do not intend as well as give room for people to completely misinterpret me (because interpreting written word is without fault).

It would appear I have completely given into the decay of this post. There was more I was going to say. A lot more I want to get at. But you have had the undesireable pleasure of coming about as close as you can to watching a thought form in my head. Or you stopped reading some time ago. Good for you.

(Curses and in rereading through this I am seeing all the things I still want to get at... Must... hit... publish... button)

1 comment:

Skip said...

Yay for you on hitting that button even though you didn't feel comfortable with it. I am still working my way up to simply writing something... and then I will have to deal with the publish or not issue.

I agree though, story is the whole element presented and even somewhat that is not necessarily conveyed but is part of the inspiration and creativity of the work that perhaps did not make the final product. Director's cuts and extra notes, prefaces, and etc. are good examples.

Trying to generalize 'story' is very difficult for people who like precision of language. Heh, reminds me of C.S. Lewis.