Thursday, March 20, 2014

Narrative Reductive Extremis

Story pared to the bone...
Minimal storytelling…
Ernest: When I was in fifth grade, my friend Andrew wrote a story which went,
“Last Sunday, Dad and I went fishing.

We caught a tiger shark.
Then we went home.”
The teacher said it seemed to lack something.

Yang: Hmm. It has a narrative. It has structure.

Ernest: Andrew wasn’t much of a communicator. His story had no description. No drama. Sharks are big. They fight. They’re scary. So there are questions. How big was the boat? What was the sea like? How big was the shark? Did it fight? Was Andrew afraid?

Yang: Perhaps it’s reductive narrative extremis. Maybe it’s like Hemingway’s six word story.  What was it? “For sale. Baby shoes…”

Ernest: Yes. “Never worn.” But in Hemingway’s story, there is description. There is drama.

Yang: Maybe the “tiger shark” hints at the drama. The tale may be very reduced. But haiku is reductive extremis too. “An old pond, A frog jumps. Sound of water.” Description and a splash as dramatic punctuation.

Stories need to be clear. Tiger Shark is certainly clear.

Stories also benefit from details. 
Too much detail and the story becomes flabby, even obese. But too little detail and the story is nothing but a skeleton.

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