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Friday, 5 August 2016

Meaning - the Payload of Narrative


 One question which is left unanswered by far too many authors is, "Why am I writing this story?"

While a certain amount of arrogance is required to undertake creative writing at all, it needs to be remembered that the fact of a story is not the reason for its being. If we start with the staggeringly egoistic belief that anything we might have to say will be interesting to other people, we're at ops state normal for a writer. This, however, is as far as it should be allowed to go.

Many authors seem to hold the strange belief that people read stories because they like stories. But narrative is not, and never has been, sufficient in and of itself. Story-telling is fundamental to the human experience as a form of communication. This necessarily means that something should be communicated. It is this burden - this payload of thought, concept or emotion - which is the sole justification for a story's existence.

It's a bit like the way children will recount the events of the day. On a superficial level, everything that's required to make a story is there: a sequence of events, characters, setting, etc., but these tales are never what you might call compelling. In fact, if we remove the eye (and ear) of love, it can be seen that these recounts are mind-bendingly tedious. This isn't because of a child's linguistic and technical limitations, it's because the tale being told doesn't actually mean anything. The child is merely practising the skill of recalling and recounting, and has no message to deliver.

Another example is when one of your friends falls victim to the delusion that their dreams are interesting to other people. Listening to a recount of a dream is excruciatingly boring, and this is largely because the thing which makes a dream compelling - the unique internality of the dream experience - is rarely, if ever, conveyed. There's a strong possibility, in fact, that it can't be. So we have a sequence of events which should be interesting but, shorn of meaning, becomes nothing more than a tedious catalogue of irritatingly irrelevant events.

As writers, it's vital that we ask ourselves what we want to say. If your story doesn't have a theme or a message then I'm sorry, but it's not a story. If you're not attempting to capture and convey an idea, a feeling, a way of thinking or being - in short, if you're not using your story to communicate something, then you probably shouldn't bother writing it. Because if you don't have a reason to write your story, no-one else will have a reason to read it.

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