I'm hot on the trail of a concept for a prose fundamental; that is, what a story is really about. Though possibly intangible, that concept must also manifest to a tangible degree and is oriented around morality. Of course, what moral systems and beliefs vary according to individual and group aptitude, some Kantian universality spans all, though some choose anti-morality.
A few recent stories I've read, published or in progress, contain what this is about, a focused human condition that drives a crisis. Different forms relate to story type or genre in a broader sense: drama, anecdote, vignette, sketch, and possibly philosophical in the sense of a moral law assertion, the former, moral truth discovery. Philosophers of moral law have asserted absolutes since at least Socrates and are easily questioned on their shortfalls -- attempts to finally, unequivocally, irrevocably set moral law for all time and anything but.
One step, or more, farther back to fundamentals each lacks. Why moral? Some place religion as the source of moral law, some on secular authority, some on self-governance of the self. None give a, or the, rationale. Frankly, I start to believe the human condition resists acceptance or abidance of moral law because to do so is inconvenient more often than not and therefore avoids clarity and appreciation. That last step back, it is not the greater good, it is the common good of the human condition. Humans are social beings; which means humans rely upon each other and all for fulfilling life's needs and wants -- to include sustenance physical, social, and spiritual.
Anyway, a focused moral human condition topic is essential for a narrative, suited to length, suited to audience, suited, as it were, to market, belief system, and intent. An example: a father throws a young son into deep water. "Sink or swim, my boy. That's how you learn to swim! That's how I learned. You will too."
Never mind the son would have jumped in himself when he was ready, and he almost was but for Dad's interference. Possibly, the human condition topic is Dad's objectification of the son; possibly, a matter of Dad's pride usurping the son's and challenging the son's trust of Dad. Possibly, the topic is a matter of a maxim; that is, time and tide wait for no individual, that life's trials don't wait for readiness, sometimes circumstances require immediate action without adequate preparedness. This is a lesson to learn: when to act and when to prepare.
The father believes the son is as ready as he needs to be for the now-moment and is prematurely implemented from the son's perspective. Underlying it all is the father's assertion of his will upon the son's and an usurpation of the son's free will exercise for the father's personal intents. The father relishes the son's discomfort, most of all, and is an initiation ritual, like hazing. The lesson, hard learned, though, is the overt motivation and perhaps a justification for it, if only the rationale superseded the father's delight. Not the intent is to satisfy the father's want for entertainment at the son's expense.
Mom was no solace. "It's good for you." The boy was three. The waters were the Mediterranean and twenty feet deep beside a rocky shelf five feet above the water. He dog paddled up to an overhang and took stock of where to get out easiest. He'd already scoped out exits from above; they looked different from the water. He chose one the other kids he'd watched dive in and climb out used. His next dive was on his own. Which is where he would have been moments after Dad unceremoniously threw him in first, shaming him before his peers, and stole from him his self-reliance -- for a time.
Net lesson: you're not yet ready for independence, boy. Oh ho! Asserted will soon becomes a test of wills and one which Dad loses steady ground, due to untimeliness and overt self-interested intents. He started it. Game on. This is the timeless and classic young buck and old stag contest. Moral of the story? Usurp others' free will at personal peril, invokes the pride vice. "What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive," conceive, perceive. --- Sir Walter Scott
quote:I'm hot on the trail of a concept for a prose fundamental; that is, what a story is really about.
I'm going to ask that question of the two recent stories I read. Both about vampires for some reason. I wasn't even looking to read about vampires but it just happened.
I read “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black the other day. It's the short story, not the novel. If I had to say what it was about I'd say it was about the obsession with immortality first, and maybe also about what it means to be human. I think there's a "love" theme in there too, but mostly the story is about how far people will go to be immortal. That is as close as I get to "what the story is really about."
What actually happened was:
(HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD)
Girl gets bit. There's a period of X amount of days in which you want to drink blood but if you don't, you don't turn into a vampire. If you drink blood, you turn. The MCs plan is to not turn...until she finds out her ex-boyfriend is in danger of being bitten.
In order to save him, she has to drink blood. As she drinks, she accidentally kills a stranger that asked her to bite her. She continues her search for her ex-boyfriend after this.
Ex-boyfriend is currently dating a psycho girl that wants to get turned into a vampire at all costs so she marches herself, and her spineless guy, to a vampire ghetto (a closed neighborhood/prison for vampires). She ends up holding a knife to her boyfriend's neck in order to make the MC turn her into a vampire.
The main character bites the psycho girlfriend, saves her ex-boyfriend. Then chains psycho chick so she goes through the period required to NOT turn into a vampire and films the horrible process.
Then I read another vampire story in T. Gene Davis's Speculative Blog. Glamour Girl by Jill Hand. I cannot say what it was about in the grand scheme of things. Maybe about resourcefulness. That is as close as I get to "what a story is really about."
What actually happened was:
(HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD)
Vampire woman is hungry, can't seem to trick humans into walking off with her because there's an energy bar all humans are eating that makes them immune to vampire influence. The energy bar is just a fad, like the Oreo diet. It's damned funny to me. The voice in this story is fantastic (to me).
She hooks up with her ex-boyfriend who is also quite um, peckish.
She has the brilliant idea to go pray on Amish folks because they don't have TV and they won't know about the energy bar. They drink from the kids, don't kill them. The end.
It was incredibly amusing to me. I really enjoyed reading the story and I doubt I'll ever forget about it because the idea of going after Amish people was novel and funny.
Both stories did what they were supposed to do for me, entertain me for a while.
[ December 30, 2015, 11:59 AM: Message edited by: Captain of my Sheep ]
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Well, vampire is always really about elitism, pro or con. The Amish motif for "Glamour Hand" is a convenient ironic elitist victimization of "innocence." Likewise, the story ironically victimizes West Virginia and street culture.The sarcastic irony of the narrative doesn't quite drip wet, though. The brand of elitism is urban supremacy over rural life.
Now, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is not appreciably different in elitism brand, irony, or sarcasm terms. The polar difference, though, is elitism, pro or con. Coldtown, con; Glamour Hand, pro.
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What a story is really about is framed by how a moral dilemma emerges, unfolds, and is satisfied. In the case of vampire genre, one word suffices: elitism.
Many stories involve external moral contentions, selfless nobleness and selfish wickedness contend. Many stories resolve upon internal moral contentions, internal to mean of the self, the viewpoint agonist, or de se contention between selflessness and selfishness. Many if not all great stories resolve upon both external and internal moral contentions.
At least the above criteria when a moral truth discovery is what the story is really about. These scenarios also fit moral law assertion narratives, though developed of different structures. Usually, the moral law is asserted up front and balked at by the agonist, where the moral truth discovery unfolds along with the action and becomes unequivocal and irrevocable agonist transformation at the end.
"Glamour Hand," for example, discovers an immoral truth. Technologically simple folk aren't caught up by or to social-cultural-technological fads and are naive and vulnerable to predation and exploitation by socially, etc., savvy folk for it.
The story would be ironic and transformatively transcendent if it touched upon a negative to free will exercise of a glamour hand's allure and charm assets used to selfish means and ends at the expense of victims' well-being. But no, rather, the story's attitude, or tone, only approves of elitist social ambition at others' expense, a zero-sum scenario.
A non zero-sum scenario, and external-internal moral dilemma, would come with a personal moral stake and cost for the vampires, besides exile to Amish communities away from their preferred glamour of city and urban life, and a moral gain as well as the moral cost for Amish victims.