After reading the article on the definition of a story, I was left with many disagreements and many questions. I wonder to myself, as I’m reading the article, why is it that the story has to be brought to the front lines where the story can be palpably perceived instead of allowing it to linger in the shadows of human existence? Why do we grasp, as a species, at a complete story when our precarious existence rarely allows for definitive endings and actions? I’d have to agree with the author on what qualifies as a story. We could certainly argue that a strong story is going to incorporate a few key aspects that have been finely wired into our expectations of stories, but is it really essential to a story? I think not. We could take the example of a mother pouring milk into a glass. We say to ourselves, “this doesn’t feel like a complete set of events. This recounting is lacking something essential and just doesn’t feel like a story.” But sometimes the most important aspect of a story is allowing the audience to speculate on what is going on, and weave, by way of individual experience, their own story. A woman pours a glass of milk; Interesting, why is this event important enough to be expressed to others? One determines that the person who told it has a story of his own, one that led him to quickly delineate a short story of a woman pouring a glass of milk, and asks himself, “what kind of person, with what kind of back story, finds this short account important?” We can speculate a million different things about the individual, as the human brain is wired to the complete story, and we may also start to wonder what kind of obstacles the woman may have had to overcome to pour a glass of milk, maybe creatively pulling puzzle pieces of our own experience and trying to build upon the few pieces we have already been given, or maybe we are well acquainted with the person and understand already that the woman was facing a disease that made this event important, in which case the one simple sentence speaks volumes to us and is a small story skillfully woven in to the greater story constantly being written through every measurable moment of life. Either way, though a sentence may not convey a strong story, sometimes a sentence tells more of a story than any thousand page novel by George R.R. Martin.
My favorite book is Fight Club, but I’d like to talk about Veronica Decides to Die, as I’ve read it recently.
Veronica is the focal point of the book; she finds herself in a mental hospital after an attempted suicide and has to cope with the consequences of her actions–mainly being forced to live when all she wants is to die.
Character: I think, without having to convey any more information about Veronica, most people are already interested in her as a character, for we have all faced the maddening paradox of existence, and though many of us come out with our heads high, many don’t make it out without being deeply affected by the problem of life. We can all relate to her as a person, or at least find interest in her, because she has found herself in a position that many of us have deep experience with–whether by personal experience or knowing someone who does suffer from depression. This appeals to us, I believe, because we want to understand by way of insight how people like Veronica see the world.
Intent: The intent of the story is conveyed from the very beginning of the book–the cover itself. The intent of Veronica is to take her own life, and permeates the entirety of the book.
Actions: The actions are also lucid in this book, as the initial action is an attempted suicide, which sets her down a path of struggle and redemption.
Struggle: The struggle of the book could be perceived as Veronica’s struggle to have to live when she wants nothing more than to die, but I think the real struggle. the one we may have to dig a little deeper in the first few chapters to find, is the struggle of finding purpose in an indifferent world. Her struggle comes with redeeming herself and facing up to the challenges of living.
Detail: Paulo provides many details in the book, both about setting, character, mood, and actions. His book paints a picture, or, rather, sears the images and actions of the book into the memories of the readers by providing enough detail for clarity while remaining vague enough to allow speculation and imagination to flourish in the midst of his book.