When Is A Story Just A Story?


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Thread: When Is A Story Just A Story?

  1. #1

    When Is A Story Just A Story?

    Back in 1988 or so, I picked up a relatively new novel by Stephen King called 'It'. It was, in my mind, one of his best stories.

    There are many images from that novel that rattle through my mind occasionally, but there is one particular part that has never really left my mind in all the years since I first read it.

    In this chapter, Bill Denborough is sitting in a college Lit class listening to his fellow students and the professor discuss the relative merits of some novel. They were discussing theme at the point where Bill finally asks "Why can't a story just be a story?" He winds up getting kicked out of the class for asking that question.

    That was the single most relateable moment I have ever read.

    That was the question that had been running through my head during the deathly boring book discussions my English teacher was so fond of.

    I didn't give a damn that this author based his main character on Hitler's freaking dog or whatever such bollocks someone had decided to read into someone else' work. All that mattered (and matters now) to me is the story.

    Why can't a story just be a story? Good or bad. Why do people feel the need to dissect everything in the story looking for a "theme"? Is it a superiority thing?

    How many of you sit down and decide that there is going to be an "underlying theme" to your story?

    Do you find one a necessity to good storytelling?

    Or

    Do you just want a good story to BE a good story?
    “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” -Carl Sagan

    Real courage is found, not in the willingness to risk death, but in the willingness to stand, alone if necessary, against the ignorant and disapproving herd. --Jon Roland, 1976

    Have you checked out the Hidden Content

    Founder of the Pantsers United Group and member of the Fantasy Lords Group

    "Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful,
    insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows." - Walt Disney

  2. #2
    A story is never just a story because of interpretation.

    Not dissecting each line and phrase or finding underlying themes or even marveling at plot twists... but the reaction of each individual reader.
    People, especially those considered experts in particular fields, like to study why certain words affect us in certain ways. Why does this sentence make me feel happy but makes him frown? Why does this one make her smile but makes me roll my eyes? Why did I walk away from the conclusion happy and refreshed, yet all these people say it was a terrible ending?

    Through the many feelings, opinions and interpretations of a single story - people start to look into what is actually written. Then they ask why...
    Was it intentionally written with such flowery effort or was it his natural style? Did he know or hope this would be quoted as a sentence of pure poetry when he wrote it, or was it just a sentence like any other? Is this author a literary genius or just a person with a good story to tell?

    I too don't look at writing by supposed 'geniuses' and marvel at their literary prowess. Nor do I believe comments or speculation that can't be proved without the authors admittance. So to me... stories are just stories. But authors are not always just story tellers... some of them are amazing wordsmiths with supernatural literary powers. So whilst I have no desire to turn a story into a piece of dissected trash - I do have to sit back stunned and amazed by the authors abilities as a writer.

    In the end, those studying such stuff become opinionated. They teach others to see and ascertain what they 'discovered' and they in turn pass on that same nonsense. IN the end it's just teaching people to be opinionated and verbose as far as I am concerned. But I like it anyway. The people studying and teaching all this jargon provide me with insight and I find the whole thing to contain a bit of human interest. Whatever anyway, I am as opinionated as any of them and I like to break things down to express to the author what it made me think and feel... and why. ^_^


    ~Kev.

    "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.

  3. #3
    That's cool, Kev. I won't disparage those who do the dissecting.
    “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” -Carl Sagan

    Real courage is found, not in the willingness to risk death, but in the willingness to stand, alone if necessary, against the ignorant and disapproving herd. --Jon Roland, 1976

    Have you checked out the Hidden Content

    Founder of the Pantsers United Group and member of the Fantasy Lords Group

    "Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful,
    insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows." - Walt Disney

  4. #4
    hahahaha, it was 3/4 of the way through the semester that I *understood* what literature class was about. We were reading a Vonnegut story on that day and I spotted an irony and said it and got good feedback from the instructor. That had never happened before. Oh, we're supposed to say what this makes us think of; what it reminds us of.

    Until then, I loved the class but struggled. About then I started disliking it but got better grades. I still am uncomfortable with the vocabulary about writing. I mean, I can spot a protagonist, I think I know what a plot is and how it's different from setting. But dayum, if some of the weirder ones make any sense.

    This is probably why I'm not successful with my fiction.
    Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
    — Robert G. Allen

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by astroannie View Post
    hahahaha, it was 3/4 of the way through the semester that I *understood* what literature class was about. We were reading a Vonnegut story on that day and I spotted an irony and said it and got good feedback from the instructor. That had never happened before. Oh, we're supposed to say what this makes us think of; what it reminds us of.

    Until then, I loved the class but struggled. About then I started disliking it but got better grades. I still am uncomfortable with the vocabulary about writing. I mean, I can spot a protagonist, I think I know what a plot is and how it's different from setting. But dayum, if some of the weirder ones make any sense.

    This is probably why I'm not successful with my fiction.
    If that kind of thing is any indicator, I am just wasting my time writing.
    “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” -Carl Sagan

    Real courage is found, not in the willingness to risk death, but in the willingness to stand, alone if necessary, against the ignorant and disapproving herd. --Jon Roland, 1976

    Have you checked out the Hidden Content

    Founder of the Pantsers United Group and member of the Fantasy Lords Group

    "Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful,
    insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows." - Walt Disney

  6. #6
    Because if every story was "just a story", there wouldn't be any work for English teachers.
    Hidden Content

    Hidden Content

    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." ~ Groucho Marx.

    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

  7. #7
    This was high school <mumble> years ago. I don't remember the name of the book/story, but it was like a light switch when I realized we're not supposed to talk about what happens but about how we react to what happens. I hope my work never ends up in a literature class. I've had my work in a poetry class, but it was as an example of structure and rhyme, not about the "meaning" of it. (I was asked for permission is how I know.)

    On another forum, I posted my poem "In Space" about an astronaut in a situation similar to Gravity and got some really weird feedback about how it was a metaphor for terminal illness. That soured me on their "critique" space.
    Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
    — Robert G. Allen

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by astroannie View Post
    This was high school <mumble> years ago. I don't remember the name of the book/story, but it was like a light switch when I realized we're not supposed to talk about what happens but about how we react to what happens. I hope my work never ends up in a literature class. I've had my work in a poetry class, but it was as an example of structure and rhyme, not about the "meaning" of it. (I was asked for permission is how I know.)

    On another forum, I posted my poem "In Space" about an astronaut in a situation similar to Gravity and got some really weird feedback about how it was a metaphor for terminal illness. That soured me on their "critique" space.
    A clear example of why I don't listen to 'experts' on what the story is, represents, means or states.

    I think it was Roosevelt who was told: "If I was your wife, I would poison your tea."
    And in turn he replied; "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."

    If that was in literature, it would suddenly be dissected as the author trying to represent likes, dislikes and wit and a million other different factors would start piling on. When in reality, it was just one person responding to another with equal hostility that just happened to be funny.

    If my characters say something that is funny, it is not because I thought of something funny to make them say - it is because the character is funny and said what s/he said. Nothing more complicated than any other person saying something without my control. The difference is, I can go back in time and force them to say something else if I want to.

    This is probably why I'm not successful with my fiction.
    So don't think of it as fiction. ^_^

    My stories might go into the fictional section of a library. They might be labeled as fantasy or sci-fi. They might be put into the young adult section or new adult section... but whatever the case. My stories, my characters and my worlds... they are real. As real to me as anyone else I have met and any place I have been.

    Real. Therefore; non-fiction. ^_^

    Write a fictional story the same way you would a non-fictional one. Whatever you write is simply because that is what actually happened ^_^


    ~Kev.

    "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.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Greimour View Post
    Write a fictional story the same way you would a non-fictional one. Whatever you write is simply because that is what actually happened ^_^


    ~Kev.
    I meant fiction as opposed to poetry. But yes.
    Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
    — Robert G. Allen

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by astroannie View Post
    I meant fiction as opposed to poetry. But yes.
    Ah, that makes a little clearer. But I still find that most poems can be expanded into a story.

    I am really interested in seeing you write a story piece now. ^_^ <3

    "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.

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