Monday, April 09, 2007

The calculus of story-telling

A story, simplistically speaking, is driven by a function. Like a curve - it has its ups and downs. You remember the once-upon-a-time when we all had to study differentiation, and calculate the maxima, minima and inflexion?? If you carefully observe, a simple story would ride on a curve.

  • Boy meets girl, (At t = 0, perhaps? )
  • Boy and girl fall in love, Maxima
  • (Lo and behold, we discover that the families were always rivals. )
  • Girl's dad-mom find out and threaten to kill the boy, Minima
  • Girl and boy elope, Point of inflexion.
The point of inflexion. The point where the double derivative is zero (??). The point where the direction of the story changes. The point of freedom. The point where there is nothing left to lose. The real art of finishing up a story, I believe, comes with bringing your characters to this point of no return. Beyond this point, even if its a tragedy, the story itself takes over.

So, the aforementioned story could either be QSQT-esque tragedy ending in a bloodbath. Or, they could have a child and then the parents look at the grand-child and have a change of heart (Now which movie was it? Dil? Bobby?).
Of course, nobody is making these formula films anymore. But, even for a complicated story, it should be possible to identify such points.

Cheats, (like me), create a vivid landscape for the characters, write about the maxima usually soaked in nostalgia, drag the story to the minima, to the sadness/helplessness/despair, and let the pathos do the trick on the reader. Probably because of the lack the creativity and/or the courage to give a fair treatment to the characters.

What do you think?

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