Friday, June 6, 2008

9 word stories

Kambei tries to get Kikuchiyo to tell the story of the seven samurai.


Kikuchiyo: Well, there was a village, a mountain village, and the villagers were very poor and couldn’t grow much food, and they were frightened…

Kambei: Too much detail. Give me a plot summary in nine words.

Kikuchiyo: Nine words? Nine? Impossible.

Kambei: BME. Three words for the beginning, three words for the middle and three words for the end.

Kikuchiyo: I still say it’s impossible.

Kambei: Think of a magic square. A word square. A grid three squares by three squares. Put one word in each square.

Kikuchiyo: Three by three, I still don’t see…

Kambei: Top three squares, beginning: Bandits attack village. Middle three squares, middle section: Villagers hire samurai. Bottom three squares, ending: Samurai kill bandits.

Kikuchiyo: Ah.

Kambei: Try. Tell me the story of the seven samurai in nine words.

Kikuchiyo: Bandits attack village. Villagers hire samurai. Samurai kill bandits.

Kambei: That’s the skeleton, the structure, the framework. After that, you can hang meat on the bones.



Hemingway is credited with being able to tell a story in six words. He came up with, "For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn." 

The same principle of reductionism operates here, except that we have extended the six words to nine. In the interests of symmetry, and perhaps to ride the sudoku wave?

Down the X-axis we could place BME (Beginning, Middle, End) and across the Y-axis, categories like Agent, Action, Object.

With a bit of practice, you could find yourself talking like Joel or Ethan Coen pitching their latest story to a director.

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