Somehow My Life Has Become Books…

I’ve been working in a bookshop for almost two weeks now. I do not like the moments or hours when I feel like a moderately intelligent zombie moving people towards books and books towards people, but I do like the often strange, weird, funny and sometimes surprisingly touching conversation you have with strangers who are looking for a particular book.

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I also have more patience for reading since my life has considerably slowed down (still not sure what to think of this). I finished Philip Pullman’s wonderful rendition of “Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm” today. It’s a bit odd to read translations of tales that I could easily read in the original but Pullman really brings out the beautiful storytelling that makes the tales so damn good. The same mechanics are used in almost every form of storytelling, movies, TV, advertisement…I found a lot of understanding how fairy tales work as well as heaps of inspiration for writing and for Dancing Tales.

The best tales might be those that borrow from older traditions and those that carve out particular and unique new traditions. Also, it must be hell to write a convincing new version of classics like Briar Rose…

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…speaking of which, I also finished Neil Gaiman’s “The Sleeper and the Spindle”. I don’t want to spoil too much and just say that if you go into the story after having seen Chris Riddell’s image of a sort-of Snow White kissing a sort of Briar Rose and think you know what you’re in for, you’re in for a surprise. It’s a bit like “Stardust” and a bit like “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”, just a lot shorter and it is a convincing new version of Briar Rose and quite a bit more (with gorgeous and delicate artwork).

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Choice in Storytelling

I’m currently writing a story that allows the reader to actively choose his or her path through the tale.

This is an uncommon struggle for me because a story is usually finished, polished and then told. By a single person. That’s how it is given to a reader. A finished thing that is nonetheless dead without imagination.

An active tale feels different.

Unfinished, somehow. Or like several tales.

This is a collection of thoughts – to get them out of my head and also as an offer to fellow storytellers or good readers to offer their own helpful, critical or inspirational thoughts.

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– The main character is, by necessity, an everywoman. I try to shape her by offering the reader little choices about her background…whether she comes from a healthy family background or not, whether she is interested in emotions, thoughts or actions etc. But it is impossible to define her much further than that because she is everyone who is reading the story.

– There are no thoughts or severly limited thoughts, because you cannot offer the reader any guesses as far as motivation goes…everything is a clue that she must decide to follow or to abandon. The writer can only describe outward things and must make the reader guess what is behind them and make their choice accordingly.

– The story needs to move quickly. Depth is hard to achieve, and only by action.

– The pacing is more akin to a video game or movie. I only decide when and where to cut. I try comparing it to various practices of how to cut a movie. Do you show the whole action…beginning – climax – result…and then cut or do you build it up and offer the decision, the climax of the scene, to the reader?

– Are there meaningful choices and can I allow a reader to make them? Do I offer moral choices? Allow the reader to choose sides? Can there be choices between different approaches? One emotional, another intellectual, a third physical? Is it possible to tell a story where I, the writer, make no choices myself and not have the story branch out into thousand unmanageable pieces?

– Is it possible to tell a good story without full control over the story itself? Or does one simply need to tell several good stories and stitch them together seamlessly?

– How much is illusion of choice? The reader cannot choose everything or she will derail the story. Stories work within limits. How much choice do you give someone to create the illusion of choice?

– Like in a conversation, “Yes and No” questions quickly lead to dead ends. Choices between obvious opposites soon become uninteresting unless one subverts them or mixes them up. Choices need to have a certain level of unpredictability.