Friday, February 15, 2013

The Five Kubler-Ross Stages of Story

What's your story?

This question can--and is in this instance--asked with sincerity and invitation among writers for conversation, recognizing at once the great breadth of similarities and extraordinary facets of individuality between us.

This question can, and is often asked--as you did earlier this morning--with an edge of irritation bordering on self-interest and, say, the irritation of being thirty-six hours into a cold, thus your comment to a driver who honked at you for taking a moment longer than he thought necessary at a stop sign.

This is, then, an investigation of the former, your concept of the dramatic story.  But in fairness to those portions of your personality less interested in writing and storytelling than the majority, it will reflect some of their attitudes about life in general, just as your more elevated responses reflect your more literary attitudes toward story.

Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher (535-475 BCE) has left us with the observation that one cannot bathe in the same river twice, a fact the American poet, Ezra Pound (1885-1972) put to memorable work in a line from his poem,Hugh Selwyn Mauberly,  "All things are a-flowing, sage Heraclitus says..." which reminds us of the inevitability of change and movement.

You think of this motion of time and space and individual differences and preferences from time to time while trying to set story in motion.  You do so because in effect you cannot have the same conversation twice, even with the same person, even when it seems to you that you in fact are having exactly the same conversation again.  A great difference is the fact that you were not likely to have been as irritated by the conversation the first time through.

You also like to think of the enormous capacity and flexibility of the English language (and yes, nods to Noam Chomsky) many other languages.  English in particular seems to take on words from other languages to the point where we not only don't think to italicize them to show they are foreign, we actually forget their sources of origin.  They are in our linguistic tool kit.  Period.  No one you know would think to italicize, much less explain bungalow.  Taco?  Not likely.  Move over a scosh.  Suffering from ennui?  Not a chance, too many things on your plate for that.  And, as Kurt Vonnegut would say, so it goes.

Language, a splendid, nuanced, superb tool kit, the thing prized and revered among many writers you know, also enhances the potential for the opposite of its intended communication.  Language can cause two or more persons to engage in a conversation, a condition that is not yet story but oh, so close to being one, because each of the persons in the conversation is convinced of his or her correctness, of making his or her intentions pellucid.


There is story in that,  In fact, for you, that is a major component (and delight) of story.  There is the conviction of being right, which leads to the wonderful potential for conflating this with the Kubler-Ross Stages.

Denial.  They must have understood me.  How could they have not?  I was being perfectly clear.

Anger.   How anyone could have misinterpreted my intention is infuriating.

Bargaining.  Well, I suppose there were a few unnecessary adverbs.  Okay, I admit it, I did use some low-calorie words, but even so, I was pretty clear.

Depression.  Makes you want to think twice about trying to express your feelings to anyone.

Acceptance.  Fuck it.  Time to move on, get over it, under it, around it, through it.  Thus, your own two-word phrase for the closure of a short story, negotiated settlement (in which the characters are not only "settling" with one another but with the greater, often less personal presence of Reality.

The Kubler-Ross model is, by your perspective, a model for a short story.  (Haven't spent much time applying it to the longer works such as novella and novel, but it seems to have potential there, as well.)

She got it all wrong.  That was the last thing on my mind.
She'd have to be pretty dense to take things that way.
Well, maybe I came on a bit strong, I'll admit that, but she could have seen it was my enthusiasm talking.
Women.  Oh, boy.
Okay, can't win them all.  Time to get back up on the horse.

The question,What's your story? emerges in direct response to the work underway on fiction writing, and your attempts to bring to it what you do not see in sufficiency in other books on fiction writing.  As well, it has to do with the fact that a collection of your short stories is being prepared for publication, thus editing, thus the order of presentation of stories, thus the door being opened for that omnibus copyright notice, Portions of this work have appeared in slightly altered form, in the following publications...

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