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Scheherazade Need Not Apply

Storytelling is an art because it is not simply about going from plot point A to plot point B with a minimum amount of adverbs. It allows room for ideas and ambiguity, takes twists and turns like a magician’s sleight of hand, builds entire universes from the printed word and finds new ways to enthrall us on even familiar terrain. Whether through elegant use of language and syntax, artful structuring or unexpected use of devices to open the reader’s third eye, storytelling is the opposite of the paint-by-numbers industry that takes up so much shelf space at Barnes & Noble. So many people think it takes no particular skill to crank out screenplays, novels, films, or TV episodes, inundating publishers and studios with recycled garbage.

Re-watching last season of Fargo, I found myself examining the structure and how evocative each scene was, how it arced and how it ended as it began. Justice and retribution were balanced by loss and folly and even the improbable alien voyeurism dovetailed with an overall meditation on menace and change.

By contrast, a novel I agreed to review demonstrated so little respect for the art that I declined to publish it. The writer (who had some experience writing factual treatises) like so many non-fiction writers, assumed that plot, characters and rudimentary grammar were all she needed to construct a novel. When I offered her my review, largely a synopsis of Creative Writing 101, her response was “well, it’s not for everyone.” Such dismissiveness considering the amount of effort involved in reading and writing a diplomatic response aside, I must conclude she could not distinguish between a treatment and a compelling narrative. I don’t fancy myself a writer but I do love to study and understand what makes something effective and elegant. I would hope that someone who does would want insight into the magic of storytelling.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
senryu
Apr. 26th, 2017 06:48 pm (UTC)
Here's a brilliant analysis of solving story problems: https://www.moviemaker.com/archives/news/first-draft-rearranging-screenplay/
senryu
May. 10th, 2017 10:36 pm (UTC)
Part of the problem comes from being a cross-genre reader apparently: https://psmag.com/news/why-sci-fi-fans-are-morally-loose
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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