Monday, May 01, 2006

 

Some thoughts on what makes a good story

B and I went to the movies the other night (last week). I hoped to find a story with some guts in it, some overarching philosophy and meaning.

No luck.

The best we could find was the bank heist movie with Denzel. It was good, but I realized yet again that good stories, for me, are not only the plot but the why. It doesn't matter if it's a movie, a book, a play, even music.

I read the new Jim Butcher this weekend. A great read. I loved it. And I loved it because you can see the author’s beliefs about the world in the story, and they matter - those beliefs impel the story along. I like that.

A lot.

No, those beliefs shouldn't intrude so much that the story becomes something else - but a story with no guts just isn't much fun.

It may be a Jungian archetype kind of thing. The best stories for us as individuals are about archetypes with which we resonate, the characters placed in opposition to archetypal characters to which we antipathetic. Mysteries, romance, fantasy - you can see the archetypal thing at work in all the major genres, and maybe ALL genres.

In the very act of writing archetypes, we create stories with guts, at least for those readers who have the same archetypal likes and dislikes. You can't read a story about someone with whom you don't resonate. At least you can’t read it and enjoy it.

There are only so many stories. But the telling, now that can be fresh and new a zillion times over.

Jake

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