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Why Generosity

mgz24's picture

 I've been thinking now about Anne's question in class about why we're reading this novel, and I keep going back to the part in the novel where they say that there are only 24 possible plots to write, and they debate whether that is true or not.  I'm starting to think that in a broad sense that may actually be true.  Because I think there really is a limit to what kinds of stories can be told.  I think that the variation comes not from the plot, but from the story.   Similar to how there are multiple stories of evolution, there can be multiple stories for a certain plot line.  I think that in order to see the evolution of literature we must look at how many new ways there are to tell the same story, and at how willing more recent writers are to stepping outside of the box to tell a certain plot line in a completely new way. 


skindeep's picture

the idea of there being only

the idea of there being only 24 stories to be told is an interesting one. last semester, i was in a creative non fiction class at bryn mawr. the class had about 15 people in it and every week, a group of 5 people shared a piece of writing with the class - the prompts for these assignments was loose ('personal' 'walking' 'food' 'music' etc) and we were given the freedom to decide whether or not we wanted to follow them at all. the thing that i found most interesting in the class was the fact that every week, five students writing the 'same story' (eg music) had five extremely different, personal, vibrant essays to share.

movies, genres of books, cartoons, tv shows and blogs, all of these seem to do the same. we could say (taking us back to professor grobestiens original point) that the manner in which we structure our lives, either on a day to day basis or looking back on it, is one story. a story comprised of littler stories.

i think it brings us back to the idea of perception - someone famous once said that there were as many universes as there were minds and i agree with them - we all may have the same recipe for a story, the same basic structure, but it is not  a blueprint for the manner in which things turn out - what we choose to do with it is up to us entirely.

AnnaP's picture

Evolving narrative forms

I agree with mgz24 that in some ways stories do have limits; we see the same archetypes and plot structures come up over and over again, even as the form varies. But I find the idea that there are “multiple stories for a certain plot line” compelling because it opens up possibilities even as there seem to be limits.
Lately, I have gotten really interested in new ways of telling stories, in particularly with comics and graphic novels. As mgz24 points out, I think they are a way of stepping out of the box and of taking plotlines that we already know and rehashing them in dynamic new ways. Like film, comics are another medium that Richard Powers mentions to tell stories when the Thief says “The best comics must be better than any print-only book. It kind of follows: pictures plus words gives you more to work with than just words alone” (p. 89). Russell counters him with the question “What about interiority? Complex levels of concealed thought?” but I would argue that graphic novels definitely do include what is below the surface, even if their medium makes them seem somehow more oriented with aesthetics. (Due to the way he plays with language and plot, I think that Powers would probably agree.)
I am really interested in how graphic novels take certain storylines and archetypes and recreate them in a way that people clearly find very compelling, and I would be interested to hear what others have to say if they, like me, appreciate this medium.

alexandrakg's picture

 I would definitely agree

 I would definitely agree with your point about the graphic novel.  Even if the stories are relatively the same, ones, as Powers might say, we all already know, the way in which they are presented allows the old story to be reborn.  The author can literally illustrate their point.  I, too, have recently become more interested in graphic novels.  While I highly respect an author's ability to create a picture with words, I also appreciate what graphic novels allow authors to do.  We get a clearer picture of what the author had in mind, and in many ways, it allows a greater level of expression.  Maybe stories do have limitations, maybe there are only 24 basic plots, but they can be told in, if not an infinite number of ways, certainly quite a few.  People will always be pushing boundaries as to how a story is defined.  I certainly have a deep respect for people who can create such a clear picture from their words, but I also appreciate how the graphic novel allows for deeper insight into the author's vision of the novel.  It also allows the reader to focus on different parts of the story that they may not have in a standard novel, which in a way, reinvents the story.


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