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.