I’ve got this thing against people swearing by a single story structure. I don’t quite know why it is, but – oh, yeah, I do. Watched a new Hollywood release recently? Seen it before? I have. Seen it too many times before? Me too. And I just can’t get over the idea that while each and every release has a thread – or maybe even two threads – of potential, someone or something is throwing it away.
And then another movie comes out. Same story. Quite literally.
Cinema has so much potential, what with all the tech, all the costumes, all the actors, and the studio community. It strikes me as odd that production teams with so much skill and experience just settle for basic, over-used stories. I don’t like being able to predict absolutely everything that is going to happen during the film. Maybe I’d like to just think of myself as some kind of gifted prophet, but I can’t – other people seem to have the same gift.
It happens a lot with books, too. I used to like to say “it’s all the fault of our teachers”, but if they were anything like my teachers (that’s you, Earl), then they were giving us good structural advice for when our stories are in trouble. In other words, you’re going nowhere. Kaput. Not as an “if you don’t use this structure, you aren’t writing a story” statement. Writers who took any kind of course all heard the fantastic and miraculous tale of the ultimate structure: The Hero’s Journey (Joseph Campbell). We’ve probably all seen Kurt Vonnegut talk about three simple story structures. And then, if we still read books, we see it in action.
So when I bumped into the short stories about Geralt of Rivia (who some of us know as the witcher), I was thrown off my feet. They weren’t particularly fantastic. They weren’t extremely comprehensible. Heck, they didn’t even seem to be in any particular order when I first read The Last Wish. But they were interesting. They were unpredictable. What I saw in them was a kind of new potential for storytelling: little snippets of adventure. They felt more like events than structured stories. Instead of reading through them and thinking “ah, yeah, so now he turns around and goes sad about life for a few minutes before someone sets him back on his feet”, I found that the stories were organic. Sure, there were small overdoses of heroism, but that’s nothing compared to overdosing on story structure. I’d rather see a (kind of) invincible character doing interesting things than slog through a story where a true-to-life character runs through the motions (and yet, is that really true to life?).
That’s not to say that I like superhero stories. They are endurable, sometimes (except that most of them follow the same story structure anyways), but I’m talking about something else. I want to read interesting stories with relatable characters.
Hence the title of this blog post. I’m working on episodic stories. They are more for interesting content than any kind of structure. Sure, I might slip into some kind of clichéd structure for one or two stories, but my focuses are content, setting, action, world. Organic storytelling and interesting content.