Friday, October 25, 2013

The Essence of Story (Or: Why So Negative?)

This is a vague and piddly topic for a blog entry, perhaps, but it's been on my mind.

So I know, I'm kind of negative, in the general cosmic sense.

But there's also some bit of method to it, I have to say.

See, positivity is kind of boring, dramatically speaking.

What Makes An Interesting Story 

Scanning some travel-and-sex blogs recently, I got to thinking about what makes an interesting blog entry, and what makes an interesting story.

I think of a certain colleague who was known for being a bore with his drunken rambling stories; while the stuff of his stories on the surface might seem interesting -- fucking, travel, fighting, meeting famous people -- they completely lacked any drama; they were just (in most cases scarcely believable) bits of information designed to show how awesome he was.

It comes down to information content versus entertainment content, i think.

"Five Ways to Do Whatever" posts are incredibly popular and occasionally interesting, but they're just information.

To tell an actual story, you pretty much need a dramatic arc: set up the situation, establish a conflict of some sort, there's a climax where it all comes to a head, and then there's the aftermath of what happened. That's entertainment. The conflict, that's the important part. But a lot of blogs these days seem to focus more on informational content, and that's why I generally don't find them very interesting.

I get accused of focusing on the negative, but I think it's the drama of the conflict I'm mostly focusing on. Now, the conflict can take many forms -- the traditional conflicts were man vs. man, man vs. nature and man vs. himself -- but you can also have conflicts with expectations.

Let's Look At Some Examples:

  • "I fucked a girl last night." Basically just informational content, mainly serving to impress. You and half the planet, buddy.
  • "I fucked two girls last night." Informational content DEFINITELY trying to impress, although it does mess with our expectations a little. A little.
  • "I fucked a girl last night and she had big tits and her ass tasted like blueberry waffles." -- Okay, now we're getting warmer -- the informational content is sufficiently intriguing that we want more information. Her ass tasted like blueberry waffles? Holy shit, that's unusual! It conflicts our expectations quite a bit.
  • "I fucked a girl last night using the Scorched Earth approach and the Delineated Marigold Escalating Conversation technique."  -- Now this is pure informational content, but it's very specialized and technical and greatly of interest to certain folks. And completely lacking in interest to others. (Yes, I made those up.) 
  • "I fucked a girl last night and she pissed, shit and vomited all over the place." -- Here we see the dramatic arc. We've established the characters and a conflict, mainly a conflict between expected pleasure and the unexpected unpleasantness of bodily fluids. Describe the clean-up, and you've got a story! Guys have made whole careers out of that story. (Yeah, and he doesn't need a link to it, he's made his money. We all heard some variation of it a dozen times in college, but he's the one who wrote it down, so props to him.) 
  • "I fucked a girl last night, and then I left without saying goodbye, but then I fell in love with her and went looking for her, and after many humorous incidents, we married." -- The Romantic Comedy version.
  • "I fucked a girl last night all the while supporting myself off of automated internet businesses, and for $12.00 you can buy my e-book explaining how to do that!" -- Neither informational nor entertainment, it's advertising. 
That's the problem with being an indie author -- we have to sell that shit as well, and self-promotion and advertising begins to consume all the communication that you do. (We are a Nation of Whores, we e-book authors. We become that which we despise, rather than running from it ... )

Of course, my bread and butter is telling people what they DON'T want to hear; you can usually make a few bucks doing that, also.
Anyway, there you go. A short blog entry of purely informational content.


Kirsty Allen said...

Your book sounds cool! and it's a good deal! free in smashwords? will grab this. thanks for the very funny and naughty post!

Jug Jugette said...

Hey ETX, trash this spam would you?