Saturday, November 5, 2016

And the Beat Goes on

At the time you began undertaking the structure and intent of story so that you, too, might be able to produce such dramatic gems, to your immense relief,a contemporary view held there to be two essential types, the plot-driven story and the character-driven story. 

Predicated on your belief that you were no better at plotting than you were at math, you threw yourself into what you considered character-driven stories, only to be told that your results were not stories.

Thus your introduction to such terms as pastiche, slice-of-life, vignette, and entr'acte, all of which you were made to feel were in the same relationship to story that tap dancing was to ballet: they were things writers did when not writing short stories or, indeed, when not able to write short stories. 

If your narrative were any of these things, you needed to ponder what elements were missing in order to transform this mongrel into a thoroughbred. That was then.

Story as such has undergone considerable evolution. While you may not have kept pace with that evolution, you have at least maintained contact with it through your activities as editor and teacher, perhaps even coming to some negotiated settlement with it so far as your own writings are concerned. On balance, you have seen yourself and the short story into the twenty-first century.

This is of considerable moment since such matters as the narrative voice (and thus the presence of the author), the use of detail, and conventional visions of what was once regarded as plot have frequently been spotted roaming the literary streets, causing the same sorts of distractions inherent when an actual individual is seen wandering the streets not so much from agenda or motive as from dementia or a related affliction.

The three main methods for implementing dramatic narrative are narration, interior monologue, and dialogue, all of which originate with the characters when, in earlier times, they may well have had their beginnings as an adjunct of the authorial presence. The author no longer belongs in the story, having selected the dramatis personae to provide the work through action. 

Hence the expression "authorial intervention," which is the equivalent of the current neologism, splaining, its most odious form being mansplaining, which becomes a man explaining female psychology and physiology to women. Authorial intervention is the writer, explaining or interpreting the story to the reader.

All aspects of the twenty-first century story are transacted through action, the most basic element of all in story, but often lost under a welter of plot-related considerations and adjustments. Any given moment, whether narrative, interior monologue, is expressed through action. A single moment of action, even the action of a pause or hesitation, is called a beat.

So long as the beat or movement or, if you will, action, goes on, the story continues. When action stops, story stops, but even more to the point, description begins. 

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