Story Through the Looking Glass

There is a delicate gossamer line between the action in a story, and the resolution of the story, and it is in this shimmer that the art of story lies. 

The resolution of a story usually contains the message of the story, because it is here that the tensions within the story are resolved, one way rather than the other.  Some say a story should speak for itself, and the listener be left to draw their own conclusions.  Story is a very broad church, and covert meaning works sometimes and not in others, it feels right to some tellers and not to others.  It leaves some listeners wanting, and others satisfied. 

In an autobiographical story, the story includes the thoughts, beliefs and values of the teller. This is a core part of the double helix of a true personal story - the internal journey tracking along side the external journey of events. So we need to reveal our perceptions, the question is how?

In the resolution we understand the story and its significance.   So it is tempting to get to the end of the action in a story and sit back and say, ‘So what I learned from all this is…’ or ‘What these events taught me was…’ or ‘And now I believe that …’    

The effect is to yank us out of story and into analysis.   If the resolution is too long, or too blunt, or too complex, the listener moves from enchantment to lecture.  The beauty, depth and emotion of the story evaporates as the mind does what it can’t help doing: analyse, assess and decide if the tellers lesson fits with its own values and beliefs.

In a business setting or a speech, where the purpose is to persuade or inform, the movement between story and logic can be so sudden. 

But even then, and definitely when telling a story for its own sake, a message that is embedded, woven in so it appears as one seamless piece, holds our attention more fully.  

The closer you can get the action and the resolution, the better the story; the more entwined the lesson, the more we stay in the story, and the more we believe it’s truth.  We want to create a jewel to be held in the mind and turned over and over, seeing new and different facets, peering through the looking glass.

One of the gifts of true personal storytelling is the chance to see behind a persons’s facade and into their interior world, their take on this life, how they made sense of the events at the time, and how they make sense of the events now, from the distance of time.  Paradoxically this is also the great benefit to the storyteller, reflecting on experience and meaning, shaping and being shaped.  

The holy grail is to find and say what it all means to you, but weave it through the story with a light, deft hand, and so become artful.  

Postscript:  This post is full of unfinished ends, trailing off to mystery.  It is messy, and complex and unresolved, a direct contradiction to what it is trying to argue for story. It is posted anyway, as one view from one direction, on one rise on the horizon.

I'd love to hear your views, from your direction, in the comments below.