Not much new to report today. Lousy weather kept me more confined to quarters than usual. Good writing and good coffee this morning, a slightly more strained editorial process this afternoon.
I’ve been thinking a lot about conversations with friends about narrative energy in comedy, drama, and tragedy. There’s a theory in dramatic criticism (I don’t know whose theory this is, this is just the kind of stuff I chat about on long walks to and from the gym) that developments in plot are ‘sold’ by the expenditure of narrative energy. The more of a stretch the plot moment might be, the more narrative energy it requires. Narrative energy is accumulated by the storyteller’s work—describing characters preparing to do things, or resolving emotional tensions, or creating new ones. You can see this literally in scenes where the hero has to ‘believe in herself’ to jump across a chasm, or beat up a lion, or something like that. Flashbacks, a swell of music, a sort of recap of the narrative energy accumulated so far—and then she jumps, and (if we’re in a drama) makes it. Or (if we’re in a comedy or tragedy) something else happens–they fall, or get hit by a whale, or whatever.
This is similar to mechanics for story-driven games, as my friend Dan pointed out. Think about the Spirit of the Century system, where you can spend points to use a character’s aspects (basically their story-handles) against them, or to their benefit.
I don’t know how useful this stuff could be to story writing. At worst, seems like it could reduce some sensitive story architecture stuff to blunt calculus. On the other hand, it could give us new questions to ask as we do our work…