Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Two Ways to Write Story

There are two basic ways to tell a story, which is a dangerous enough statement on its face because the moment you step forth in such specifics as the mention of the "two" as a modifier for story,(remember, basic was also dropped in there as a modifier) some smart ass by degrees smarter than you, will call forth "three," and maybe even "four."

With this potential for rebuttal in mind, you resort to a bit of self-editing: There are two basic ways for you to tell a story.

The first way is, in your opinion, the most effective, most apt to produce surprise and some measure of value for what you hope is your still-expanding craft, and for any who may happen upon your story.  This is the way of story telling you are so invested in, because of your direct experience with the events within the story or because you have seen similar events in real life and they have become forged in the smithy of your process to this particular genie in a bottle, urgent for a means of escape.  You are in effect the bottle from which the genie wishes--needs--to escape.  Ah, such stories are joys incarnate because they have the power to break your heart.  They are there, watching for an opportunity to escape from you, devious, determined, watchful.  You do not so much tell this kind of story as you serve as the medium by which it is conveyed.  Stories such as this kind are reminders of why and how you became what you are.

The second way, the "other" way, is important to you because while it is not your favorite way,it is the conveyance you rode into the craft.  This "way" involves your construction of a story, sometimes by simple trial and error, floating concepts, testing them, adding an element, say the literary equivalent of baking soda, watching for effect.  You are in a way using recipes, hoping for a combination that connects with some loud noise, signifying the agreeable combination of elements responding to one another in that special synergy of the whole being more,much more than the sum of its parts.  Such stories rarely leave you satisfied; you watch them with suspicion, looking for a place to tack on a sensor that will lead you deeper inside the core, hopeful you will find a place where passion dwells and  some insight awaits release.

The two types of story are inextricably bound; you always want to find the former lurking in the latter.  But there are no guarantees of such results.  The one certainty is the need for drafts, one after another--until something is discovered.  It is like diving for coins in the cushions of sofas and easy chairs in hotel lobbies.  Sometimes, sometimes you get lucky.

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