Sunday, December 25, 2011


Modern mystery novels and numerous newspaper accounts of crime scenes make pointed reference to DNA traces as substantial evidence placing a particular individual at the venue of the crime.  DNA is shorthand for deoxyribonucleic acid, which is contains instructions used in the development and functions of most living organisms. This genetic information is stored in DNA segments called genes.

A good analogy for DNA is a computer, its assortment of soft ware, and the accompanying instruction book.

In a real and vital sense, story has genetic components, which are stored in the dramatic equivalent of DNA.  As biologists consult genes for information, readers in their way consult story.  Not all readers consult story for the same reason.  Critics are looking for idiosyncratic themes and information strands that might be prove meaningless to conventional readers.  Editors are looking for potentials for general reader interest.  Conventional readers—if there truly are such individuals—are looking for emotional responses; they are looking for gateways to places they might never have otherwise visited, and they are looking for incentives to stay in these places until the trip they have embarked upon has come to an end.

You are at some pains to draw this parallel between genetics and story for the same basic reason you were—and remain—convinced the modern story and contemporary philosophies of acting techniques are developing along parallel lines.

Much of your conviction about the genetic/dramatic parallel comes from your last non fiction book, in which you spent time discussing and linking over three hundred fifty dramatic elements, some (such as plot, point of view, and scenes) seeming quite appropriate for your study, while others (such as Wile E. Coyote, Captain Ahab, and Sisyphus) seem to be things you’d drawn in from the far reaches of logic, but which have relevance of high order.

The more the reader (critic, editor, teacher, conventional reader, and writer) understands the construction of story, the more the reader will be able to see the connection between story as we have come to recognize it in a literary and teaching sense, and to see that story is wired in our species and reinforced on a cultural level with some manner of daily repetition.

To an unrealized degree, most of us are in fact educating ourselves to think and relate in some form of narrative, whether we are aware of it or not.  The more thoughtful among us who venture professional lives that involve producing narrative are trying to bring about the union of the way we write as an individual and the way we speak as a member of the species.

While we are in the process of reading the things our curiosity drives us to read, we are developing an awareness of story as never before.  The gap between the narrative report and evaluation (nonfiction) and the evocative, nuanced approximation are finding more places of convergence to the point where the dominant theme if each is often blurred.

“I am what I am,” Popeye, the Sailor, informs us.

The Critic then asks, “Who are you?”

The Reader asks, “Who am I?”

The Writer says, “Think about it.”

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