When Is A Story Just A Story? - Page 3


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Thread: When Is A Story Just A Story?

  1. #21
    A story can be a story, or not, although I tend to think that for a 'just a story' to resonate it requires some degree of commonality that people can relate to, which may or may not make it more than just a story. Then again, having a lovable-ordinary-person-underdog as a protagonist is probably not exactly what you mean about a story that is not a story.

    I have tremendous respect for those who write to entertain. I have enthused on here rather a lot about my love for pulp, which traditionally would be mostly on the 'just a story' side of things. I promote Ian Fleming's original Bond books to lots of people, and they will not often be mistaken for much more than just a story.

    I also very much enjoy the deeper stuff, although I tend to like my depth under at least a decent veneer of story. Fahrenheit 451 is a good example of a book that I read when I was younger and really liked for the story, but with depth obvious enough for me to appreciate even at a more tender age.

    Both of those styles of writing are damn hard. I have tried to intentionally pursue both approaches (at different times), and the results of a few of those intentional exercises are in the workshop.

    So, heck, I am fine with either approach, but I do prefer good execution.
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  2. #22
    A story is never "just" a story. Let's take It, since you mention that one. Good vs. evil, right? Well, that means there is an idea here about what good is and does, what evil is and does. Those are big concepts, the kind of thing that seems obvious and given until you realize it isn't, because different people represent good and evil differently, and this is (in part) determined by their time and place and culture. We can also see a certain representation of childhood in the 1950s, and we could compare it to our own ideas about childhood, or ideas of childhood in the 18th century, or whatever. Does King mean to create a certain image of childhood? Maybe, maybe not. Doesn't matter--it's there.

    The main thing to remember is that the author's intention and the reader's interpretation are never going to match up. The writer puts words on the page that mean something to him/her (and the meaning may not be intended, the writer might see it later--this has happened to me several times). The reader comes to those words with a different set of assumptions and interests, and interprets accordingly. There are better and worse readings (and that's what literature classes are for) but the writer has to accept that people will find things in his/her work that s/he didn't "put" there--but they might be there nonetheless for the person who sees them. And the reader does not have to care what the writer "meant". So, take astroannie's poem--she wasn't writing about terminal illness, but some reader finds a metaphor for terminal illness in it. From a writerly standpoint, maybe that's not a useful critique, but if the reader finds the poem compelling and beautiful as that metaphor--well, what's wrong with that?

    So Bowman, the upshot is--if you want to write "just" a story, go ahead and do that. Your readers will do with it what they wish, and you have to accept that, as does every writer in the world ever.

  3. #23
    All of this has made me conclude that;

    A story is just a story when it makes a reader think and feel nothing. Just added a bit crumpled and used paper to their pile of irrelevant material that has accumulated over the years.

    I don't think any writer wants their readers to neither think nor feel something about their work.
    We all want our readers to be engaged with our work, do we not?
    We all want our readers to walk away with something upon completing what we have written, do we not?

    ^_^

    "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”― Mahatma Gandhi


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  4. #24
    Inspiration and motive for writing changes for me all the time. I'll think of a "theme" and imagine people and situations revolving around it. Or not. I think your last question begs the response; what IS a good story? The answer to that gets debated here and elsewhere ad nauseum. Truth is, as others here so eloquently suggested, writing is wholly subjective for the reader. Yet, from the perspective of the writer you have to ask; why write a story at all? What do you want out of the experience? If a theme creates passion in you to write, use it. If a character does, use that. If its rent money, run with it. To me, theme is just a concept to describe a kind of human condition blanket thrown over a piece of writing (or whatever). There is no necessity to focus on it, but because all writing is a reflection of some aspect of the human experience, themes emerge for the writer and reader alike regardless. Its inevitable.
    Anything that doesn't take years off your life and drives you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.
    - Cormac Mccarthy

  5. #25
    Maybe Mr Wilkes advice is being misunderstood here. He said, Just tell the story. He never said, Write something that's just a story. He made his comment when I was 15 and had started adding ruffles and flourishes to my writing. What he meant was to use language that's clean, clear, simple, direct, and strong. He emphasised precise and concise - say exactly what you mean to say using the fewest and simplest words possible. .

    That was the same time I stopped trying to write stories like Faulkner, though I continued to love his writing, and began to study the way Hemingway wrote. Within a few years I'd given up trying to write fiction at all, and didn't pick it up again until I came here. Now I've gone back to those early lessons and try to tell the story as precisely and concisely as I'm able.
    El día ha sido bueno. La noche será larga.

  6. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by garza View Post
    Maybe Mr Wilkes advice is being misunderstood here. He said, Just tell the story. He never said, Write something that's just a story. He made his comment when I was 15 and had started adding ruffles and flourishes to my writing. What he meant was to use language that's clean, clear, simple, direct, and strong. He emphasised precise and concise - say exactly what you mean to say using the fewest and simplest words possible. .
    On that note, I'd like to say that I have use the same four words countless times. "Just tell the story" or alternatively "just write the story" ... as people have a great fondness to pick up on certain details. So the word 'tell' suddenly became a debate about show vs tell. -.-''

    Just Write It! is practically my motto... a mantra almost that pushes aside doubts, fears, self criticism and hesitations. When I 'just write' instead of focusing on all the tiny details and everything else, my writing tends to get cleaner, more precise and more natural all be its self.

    Basically, its my own version that amounts to the same thing as 'Just Tell The Story' ... though there may be differences to what I mean and what Wilkes said and meant, the ideal result is the same.

    "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”― Mahatma Gandhi


    If you want me to respond to a thread or your work just pm me.

  7. #27
    Agreed. So many times new writers get all caught up with tense and POV and syntax and theme and all these other things to the point where they aren't actually writing anything. I always tell them "Just tell me a story.".
    Has left the building.

  8. #28
    For me, a theme makes the story easier to write. I know what the midpoint is going to look like and from there what all the other "pivot points" look like. I also know what the protagonist's flaw is and what the antagonist looks like. Starting from a theme makes my writing more productive. It gives me the skeleton of the story. I just have to add the flesh.

    But, I don't always know what the theme is. Or, sometimes my subconscious thinks the theme is one thing while my conscious thinks it is something else. So, I have to do a lot of work to figure out what I'm trying to say.

  9. #29
    Nothing is ever just 'nothing'. A door may be a door, but it is not just a door when you swing it at someone's face as they try to walk through it. Once you do that, it becomes a hazard (for them) and a weapon (for you).

    I must be the only one on this forum who, when reading my story months later, finds that I've subconsciously slipped some of my own personal opinions about the world into the story.
    Every writer does this. In fact, every person does this. Personality leakage is part of being human.
    Sleep is for the weak, or sleep is for a week.
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  10. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Justin Rocket
    For me, a theme makes the story easier to write. I know what the midpoint is going to look like and from there what all the other "pivot points" look like. I also know what the protagonist's flaw is and what the antagonist looks like. Starting from a theme makes my writing more productive. It gives me the skeleton of the story. I just have to add the flesh.
    Same here. I think it also comes from studying screenwriting, where understanding—and utilizing—thematic structure is an important part of the learning process.

    Novel and story writing is a bit looser, a bit freer. In prose-writing, theme will always be there, in one form or another.

    Some writers deliberately craft their stories around theme.

    Other writers intuitively imbue their stories with theme.

    Other writers, still, just write stories they want to tell, and let the thematic messages surface on their own.

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