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Semiformalishmaybe

Role of Stories

(This came up in another conversation)

One of the areas of difference in people that I find most interesting is the role they think stories should play in our lives. Are stories to present a literal mirror to reality, giving us a view of the slightly-more-interesting people next door? Or perhaps even people much like us that we can cheer for or root against without the complication of either knowing they're real or ever bumping into them? Or are they specifically intended to enrich our lives with perspectives from outside our bubble, perhaps showing wisdom-in-play? Should they, as Hitchcock suggested, be mostly experiences in building up and releasing tension? If they show (parts of) a world more violent than what we're accustomed to, is there a moral responsibility that comes into play?

The idea of our living in a moral world (term of art here) was pushed by the Catholic League of Decency when they instituted the film code in the 40s (or was it earlier?), and shaped films for many decades since. Reality TV is crafted in various ways too, and is more accidentalist and kind of opposite to the scripting that Hitchcock suggests.

I'm mostly interested in creating stories that feel like found art, with no Mary Sue-ism or strong intent to create traditional plot structures, but that's mainly because I feel that human nature itself is the most interesting subject we can talk about, and that our instinct to look away from what we are is deeply harmful. Plus I feel that the habit of reliable narrators and speech from outside the context of a character stunt our ability to achieve good philosophy; I would like to write and consume stories that are an antidote to such failings. I don't want a world where everyone's pretty, equally smart, or where problems have definite answers. I also don't want a world where people are easily defined by a few single characteristics, or where they lack regrets, or where their control over themselves can be taken for granted. I don't want a world where their minds are monolithic and easily understood. The message I want to deliver is "complexity", and I want to spoil the party of people who think we're anywhere near their ideals of rationality, reliability, and the like, as well as those who think that reaching those ideals would make us happy or leave us human.

Comments

This is not the first time that it's struck me that you might have good conversations with (my ex-wife) nontacitare. She's all about telling and analyzing stories.
It has been fairly rare that my IRL circles (which have generally been seculars) have included people interested in this topic. Alas...
Have you tried visiting literary cons? There are plenty of people out there interested in complex stories.