Friday, May 18, 2007

Stories within Stories.

On the whole, I’d have to say I’m not a big fan of stories embedded inside of stories. I haven’t seen very many of them done very well, not that I’m an expert or have read everything on the planet that might contain one or two examples. I’ve often found it ‘cheapens’ the reading experience for a reader as though the author didn’t have anything to say really during that particular scene but needed something to take up space. If so, I can do that and maybe I should try my hand at it sometime.

This goes for those embedded stories that actually have something to do with the original story surrounding it too. Surely, one or two exists somewhere; I’m currently reading an anthology of horror and fantasy that contains one or two of these kinds of works and they’ve won awards (none from me in case you might wonder), but maybe that’s why writers do just that–to fill space with stuff that can’t really be presented any other way without boring the reader to tears or making a reader wonder, “How the heck did the character know all that?”

(BTW, that last part was a fine example of a run-on sentence, don't you think?)


Ris said...

I look at stories created outside the status quo of one story from beginning, middle, end as an experiment by that author. Like the way poets experiment with different ways to construct a poem, even if it has been done before, it hasn't been done by them. The story within a story structure is one of those, I think, where an author went "this would be really cool to try!" and went on to give it a whirl. Some fail miserably. A few work. And even if it didn't work, but it motivates another writer to give it a whirl, it succeeds in a way, I think, as a form of inspiration. Mimicry being an example of flattery and all.

I find I'm getting less critical of my fellow (albeit published) writers the deeper I get into my own craft. After all, even if the story falls flat on its face, I'm holding a book that someone thought would be good for the reading community (or at least the wallet) and that writer benefits from it and can try writing another story.

Or maybe I'm just becoming less "grr" about having lost time to a book that ended up not enjoying because I know I learned several ways *not* to write a book. I don't know. But I'd like to think I'm morphing into a kinder, gentler writer. Hehe.

KamiZM said...

The story within a story is a form of written experimentation, and it does work (rarely) but like dream sequences and flashbacks, they're often done really badly. I don't think writers should set themselves up to have their experiments published unless they're really good. I think the problem with novels is that often it's the case of the baby with the bathwater--the editor/publisher believes enough in the story to publish it *despite* the awk (I always imagine a gaudy bird saying "awk!" for the abbreviated form of awkward) constructions or the really cliche' sequence that sounds like it came out of an MST3K movie. It's best to get as many of those *despite* passages out of the novel as possible. They're fine in the rough draft where you can play play play but should be cut out unless they spectacularly work. Like the kewl poems we wrote at the retreat one year--they were fun and it was great to experiment with them, but would I plug one into Masks? Not unless I really knew what I was doing, had a purpose behind using that particular poetic form and really believed in it. And was sure that it had passed the trial by fire by getting folks who know poetry to give their stamp of approval so I didn't embarrass myself.

Ooo, now I have a blog topic.