What is a Story? Davor Simunovic

A story is a scattered jigsaw puzzle sprawled across your living-room floor, waiting to be put back together again. Akin to a reminisced childhood fairytale, long past-read; a great novel or poetic work, in need of a dusting off; a digital fanzine clinging to the virtual pages of the web; a fantastic tale told by a man too old, with hands too cold, to put pen to paper. A story, like a puzzle, is a mimetic mirror broken in tens, hundreds, or even thousands of pieces.

The puzzle a story . . . the pieces a plot(s). Countless scattered units of action, setting, pacing, character, and scene in need of assemblage.  At first an incoherent narrative is presented, before the reformation of the whole. A bunch of multi-colored pieces . . . maybe characters, goals, obstacles and objects. A few white pieces . . . maybe an emerging narrative or a cogent story arc. Putting them together is a challenge, but things are slowly becoming clear . . . a story. Closer to whole – half the puzzle is complete . . . the climax is near. Nearly finished – a few pieces left . . . I can’t hardly wait. Complete! Finally it’s all done. It’s not a puzzle anymore, it’s a story. Let’s break it apart and start again . . . it will definitely be easier to put back a second time, just like reading the same story over and over again; it’s starting to become more clear.

To me, a story is a holistic form of narrative with a finite beginning, middle, and end. Sure, like a puzzle you may lose a few pieces, but the overall message is maintained. An amalgam of plots that can be deciphered and understood by the audience. A story doesn’t necessarily have to resonate with the viewer, but it has to be able to lend itself to interpretation. A good example of this jigsaw framework for story, and a personal favorite, is Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007). The film carries its story trough a winding non-linear narrative. The many interconnected plots zoom in and out of time and space, but they slowly dissolve into a uniform story. The story is at first incredibly unintelligible, but as you get more and more pieces, the picture becomes clear and complete. Characters begin to develop and evolve; motives and intentions become recognizable; the climax emerges and throws you into the denouement. Many stories are poor because of this lack of connection; the good stories are the ones that weave and piece everything together. A story is many things, but it is also all things.

-Davor Simunovic

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3 thoughts on “What is a Story? Davor Simunovic

  1. meaganmthornton January 20, 2015 / 1:53 am

    Awesome way to define story. I loved your opening paragraph, it covered a lot in vivid detail and captivating diction. I like that you incorporated the reading but didn’t really focus heavily on it. And I like how your closing sentence draws everything back together.
    – S. Hunter

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  2. meaganmthornton January 20, 2015 / 2:04 am

    Davor, I enjoyed your overall take on what a story really is and mostly found myself nodding in agreement and mumbling yes as I continued on through your post. As it relates to my post I feel like your description of the stories parts as “puzzle peices” may help me clarify my idea of “connections” with the reader. The better the story (puzzle) the more complex each element will be, it will in a sense have more connections (puzzle peices). Like a child’s play puzzle is a simple child’s story, a grand multi layered 3-D puzzle is a lot like a much longer influential novel. (Steven Witkowski)

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  3. meaganmthornton January 20, 2015 / 6:40 am

    I really enjoyed your opening paragraph. Overall I liked how you described your perspective on what constitutes a story. It was very forward and to-the-point. However, I can’t help but disagree on your comment that “stories don’t have to resonate with their viewers.” It is in my opinion that stories are meant to resonate with their viewers. To be fair, I understand that a story won’t necessarily resonate with all of its viewers but a good story should naturally connect to it’s viewers on a reasonable level. By no means should a story be written purely for its viewers, that would render the story empty and fake, a story should contain at least a trace of the human experience that they are able to relate to.
    -B. Lin

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