I think good stories do this, too.

If there is a universal scale, I think it also measures narrative.

A scale is a simple thing, but it can be layered and noodled around and enhanced and emphasized into a symphony.

The best stories—the ones that resonate and engage the reader—are based on simple story threads, layered and enhanced and emphasized and twisted.

The fight for justice, truth, revenge, recovery, survival.
(a boy grows to manhood preparing to confront a once-human evil that killed his parents)
(A woman struggles to keep alcoholism and mental illness from consuming her)

The discovery of self–self-worth, self-defense, self-regard . . . Selflessness.
(A woman, called ugly and worthless, stands up to her abusive husband and finds her own path)
(A miser realizes, with help, that he wants to live a better, less lonely life)

The search for companionship, love, friends, belonging, home.
(A soldier forges his small, scruffy band into Napoleon’s nightmare)
(A young woman falls for a sentient robot and teaches it to love her in return)
(a child tries to adjust to living outside one small room)

The drive towards fulfillment–of hope, of rage, of despair, of joy, of peace, of purpose.
(every story ever told)

In the end, or at the start, the best stories are about expectations and tension and fulfillment. The journey and the destination.

And I think that in the right hands, these threads involve us in the same amazing way as a pentatonic scale directed by Bobby McFerrin.

And we’ll follow them wherever they lead.

20 thoughts on “I think good stories do this, too.

  1. That is amazing.

    The drive toward fulfillment. It wasn’t until I read that, so basic, that I said, Yes, finally. THAT is what my book is about.

    • Mr. Mcferrin never ceases to amaze me. Every muscle and sinew in his body is made of music.

      Any book you write, Lyra, should be about drive. Your determination and strength is obvious to anyone who knows you.

      (I’m halfway through Never Let Me Go—and if my style reminds you of Mr. Ishiguro’s even the tiniest bit, you gave me one hell of a compliment. Thank you!)

      • I’m so glad you’re reading it!
        There is something about the Full Metal story, the familiar unfamiliar world, the dystopia, the clean lines of the sentences telling something more complex between the lines.

        I was amazed by that book, truly in awe by how Ishiguro was straightforward, and yet managed to twist you in knots even when you knew what was happening. The world is so complete you feel that it could really be going on somewhere else. From the bits of yours you’ve shared, I gget the same

        • (grrr…typing on my phone…)
          …I get the same feeling. There is this world out there that exists and you are telling me about it, but only because I need a bit of background to understand what Clyota has going on.

        • Again, wow . . . You’ve seriously made my day, Lyra!

          And found me a new favorite author, too. This is a great book (and why I’m so tired this morning—stayed up too late reading last night).

  2. there is a different rhythm to short stories too, that’s very much like music. not to name drop, but laura m’s Living Arrangement has a short story called The Rules of Yoga that has such great…flow to it. just like music.

    • You’re so right, amy. The narrative is all there, but in a shorter wavelength . . .

      I really want to read Living Arrangements, but it’s on my Christmas list and I promised I wouldn’t buy anything on that list until this Monday.

      Sigh . . .

  3. The only other ingredient I would add to the pot, besides tension and expectation, is truth. No reader begins a story looking to be misled. From the moment Mr. McFerrin takes the stage, I believe. We all want that. We all want, as Mr. McFerrin says, to “get it.”

  4. Excellent post describing writing–it’s so true.Even when we write fiction, we’re trying to write about getting somewhere–physically, emotionally, spiritually or all three. We’re trying to get somewhere and you’re right on that it’s the journey and destination that makes it worth it.

    If anything I ever wrote as as harmonic, in tune, engaging or just down right effin’ cool as what Bobby McFerrin wrote, I’d be set for life. 🙂

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