The Shape of Stories

As an aspiring writer this was especially eye opening and it seemed really obvious at the same time. After watching Kurt Vonnegut's talk on the shape of stories a light bulb went off and I started to picture every single book or story I had every read.

There are some things that you don't know until you. Or rather you don't realize it until it is pointed out to you. My very favorite book series as a child was The Baby Sitters Club by Ann. M. Martin They followed this shape where the first book started with the main character Kristy's mom getting a divorce and having to work more. So Kristy needed to make money insert the advent of the babysitting club created for her to make money while spending time with her friends. 

My other favorite books seem to follow this same guideline or movement. Where the main character goes through an evolution and their means of evolving is never on a straight path. The movement always seems to go through peaks and valleys. Characters that went on live changing journeys like Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), and Tris (Divergent). Even your classic love stories start with a boy meets girl, boy falls in love, boy loses girl, and boy gets girl back. movies like 27 Dresses staring Katherine Heigl and Brown Sugar staring Sanai Lathan fit that story shape to a tee. 

I think you only notice the predictability of the a story shape when it is done poorly. When it is too obvious and follows the model to a tee then you notice it. You notice how it can go wrong when there is no new element added to it. But when it is done right when the story takes a familiar shape with a new twist like the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers is a classic love story of forbidden love like Romeo & JulietWuthering Heights and West Side Story but it had a twist. The human fell in love with a vampire. A blood sucking vampire. And then a wolf fell in love with her. It was a familiar story shape but Stephanie Meyers brought a new element that made this classic story shape new. 

And that is what it is all about. The stories already have a shape or a formula. The author's job is to bring a new perspective to "tale as old as time." 

Mark Twain said, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”


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