The Story in the Story

Every story humanity has ever told, and ever will tell, all come from the same myths, the same basic narratives. Boy finds friend, they find trouble; boy meets girl, they fall in love, they die or live happily ever after. Every that is going to be told has already been told. So how do you tell a story that is worth being heard again?

It is tempting for me at this point to write a list of what makes a story memorable; but the truth is, there are no specific methods. The key, however, seems to be resonance. A story, as should be obvious, needs to have some sort of relation to the person reading it. This can come in the form of an Active Relation, something someone wants to get out of the story, and a Passive Relation, something in a story that, for one reason or another, evokes an emotional reaction.

As always, the line between an Active and a Passive relation is larger and more blurred than “The Greatest CENSORED Hits of Ron Jeremy”. This is also true for how much of each element any one story may contain. Novels that are usually focused more on an Active than a Passive relation are what we have come to refer to as Crime or Detective novels. These are books that we read to try and figure out a mystery, and are actively involved in trying to decipher the plot. A Passive Relation can best be found in almost any comedic novel, where the entire point of which is to create the humorous and unexpected, and therefore inspire a passive relation (i.e. trying to make the reader laugh)

As always, the best road seems to lie in the middle. Well, at least according to my limited world-view. To illustrate why, you need only take the one piece of literature we have probably almost all heard read in monotone by an English teacher; Hamlet. This is a story that creates both an active relation, forcing the audience to determine if Claudio really did kill Hamlet sr., but also is a story, in its most basic form, about a boy losing his father, creating a Passive relation.

But Hamlet is a story we have all heard before, isn’t it, along with most of the stories we are so fond of telling. So how do we get an audience to listen to them? First, you give them something new, a new take on it, and a new perspective. Anything to pique their interest. But failing that, every good story, every story worth listening to, has to be both felt by the audience, and interpreted by them. The perfect moment is when the audience is halfway between slight confusion and emotional devastation when the plot finally resolves. If done right, its enough to leave most people speechless


2 Comments on “The Story in the Story”

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