Thursday, May 08, 2008

Story vs. Plot

Story. I love Story. I live for Story. Sometimes I live in Story. Story, for me, is the whole thing. The magic, the myth, the new world that, when the story is really good, I can scarcely tell apart from what we call the real world. Story is the living, breathing mystery that underlies the Universe.

I hope that I will manage to write Story and not just stories and tales. Because there is a difference, although I’m having a hard time articulating it.

Maybe I will just quote from Elizabeth Lyon in her book A Writer’s Guide to Fiction. “Story means the deepest meaning of a tale, while plot refers to the characters and the events that fulfill the story in a specific way. Story is deep; plot is mechanical, even if it is complex. Story is universal; plot is particular.”

Story is like the river flowing under and through and around everything. Plot, or a specific story, is like a fish or a rock or a bit of wood taken from the river. (Is that a completely corny analogy, or is it just me? I hope it makes some sense.) Story is like some underlying, Jungian archetype giving shape to the world it describes.

As a fairly inexperienced writer even after years of writing on and off, I am worried that I won’t manage to write Story. I don’t want just plot, just a string of happenings. I don’t even just want an interesting tale. I want the depth and breadth and intensity of the real thing. I want the grace of the first forest, the wisdom of the first people, the courage of the first explorers. I really want to write Story.

I don’t know that it’s something you can set out to do consciously, though. I will read Lyon’s book and see if she can give me hints about how to do it. But somehow I think it is more a process of learning to let the words swell in you and flow out through your pen. At first only stories will come. But if you open the way, and if you practice enough and learn the craft, then I think Story will come. I hope it will come.

I suppose for now I don’t need to really be worrying about this. First I need to finish my novel. Then I can see if there is Story or at least the potential for Story. And then I can decide what needs to be changed. And I can do the work and do the rewrites, and maybe when I am finished, I will have something recognizable as a small part of whole that makes up the Story of the world.

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