• Two Planes

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in WBN News & Events     Comments 3 comments
    May
    17

    Recently I’ve been trying to define what I think makes a story great and memorable, because how will I know if the story I’ve finished (reading or writing) succeeds if I don’t have some preconceived notion of what great looks like?

    It feels like common knowledge that for a story to be good there has to be plot and character development, along with interesting dialogue. However, I’ve found that great stories exist on at least two planes, meaning the great ones tell at least two stories simultaneously. One of my favorite books, The Neverending Story, tells the tale of a chubby, bullied English boy who becomes the hero in his own story–while simultaneously showing that being the hero in his own story is tied to being comfortable in his own skin. It’s a lesson so big that Bastian doesn’t grasp it the first time and it takes a second, more personal, approach for him to realize that no matter how much he changes things like his appearance, he won’t truly change who he is if he doesn’t first truly know who he is.

    What’s great about the two-plane story is that it can be any length (although it’s hard to pull off in flash fiction) and it sticks with the reader long after the story has finished. I still remember one amazing story from my freshman year fiction workshop. It dealt with the rich and the poor and cutting off limbs. A two-plane story takes a small story and magnifies it by incorporating a bigger idea. It takes the personal and adds a layer of universality to it. It infuses moments of levity with gravitas. Which is the tradition of storytelling–think of all the fairytales and folklore you learned growing up. They can all be broken down into what the story is about and how you can directly apply it to your life.

    I am currently reading Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. This story on the surface is about an aging rock star with a girlfriend half his age who is being terrorized by a ghost. This is something I know nothing about, having never been a rock star, a girlfriend to a rockstar, or chased by a ghost. However the story underneath is one about coming to terms with the past in order to freely move forward. I get that story. I know that story, and through that common ground I am able to empathize with these characters who on the surface couldn’t teach me a thing. A two-plane story delivers new experiences, because it shows how something that may feel so far removed from you can have quite a few things in common with you, which has always been the key to a great story.

    What do you guys think makes a great story?

     

    Jacqui Bryant’s love for reading, ability to create adventure, and general curiosity for all things unconventional in life may outweigh her ability to write well. But she hopes not. 

     

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    Justine Tal Goldberg

    A story which teaches a reader how to read it, one in which the author leaves a breadcrumb trail of meaning for the reader to follow. Ann Beattie’s “Janus,” for example. Without Beattie’s carefully placed tells, it’s just a story about a bowl. With them, it’s the memorable and powerful piece of fiction that it is.

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    […] to write well and still get the duality of the story across. I wrote about how I love there to be two planes to one story, a macro and a micro story generally, and having an unreliable narrator is one more layer of […]

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    […] to write well and still get the duality of the story across. I wrote about how I love there to be two planes to one story, a macro and a micro story generally, and having an unreliable narrator is one more layer of […]




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