Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Triggers of Intent

Story is an uneasy gathering of individuals, each of whom has a finger curled about a trigger. The trigger may or may not be in sight.


Story comes to life like a cheetah or panther on Animal Planet, with a rumble of hunger in its belly, and a scent of prey in the vicinity. If it is more cheetah-like in nature, it must move quickly; although it can run at great speeds, it is internally reminded that overheating can be fatal to it. The panther, although sleek and lithe, is not as fast and can consequently range farther.

By inference, story becomes a predator, stalking the areas of human awareness where beasts, monsters, and other humans lurk as they go about their agenda. By inference and direct action, story becomes every bit as focused as the cheetah and the panther; characters with exaggerated focus tend to find places in story as protagonists or antagonists.

From its early days before there was such a thing as a written language, much less a SASE, story has undergone change, evolving to something highly questionable because it is not always so readily recognizable. One of the things that has not changed all that much is one of the conditions governing its very existence: determinism.

Determinism is the default condition of story, it is a world where events, consequences, and responses occur either as the results of earlier actions or a conspicuous lack of action. Although we approach story through an entry portal called Beginning, that aperature is not the only place for the narrative to begin (witness The Iliad). Nor is it possible to say without fear of contradiction that story ends when the text does.

By its very nature, story removes ancillary, non-causal event from the narrative of life, which pursues and seeks to contain random chance with varying degrees of success. Whatever the genre, whatever the focus audience, story injects the triggers of intent into its narrative of purpose.

Story leans toward an orientation known as causal determinism because of the orientation's kinship to predictability. The reader of story comes alerted to the potential for future contingency, which is fueled by the clashes of intent and self-justification developing among the characters. Story without some form of future, implied or expressed, becomes suspect, earning such names as vignette, slice-of-life, sketch. Story without some implication, however bare, of the past emerges as a premature child emerges into the world, its auto-immune system compromised to some degree, its future hanging in the balance.

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