As a matter of structure, stories are meant to happen in a world. They happen in the context of a place with some degree of homeostasis: There is a natural order, a way things are, and then this order is disrupted, leading to the events of the story. I feel that in a good story, there are as few of these disruptions as possible – that a good story is about how a minimal number of disruptions re-contextualise existing tensions and operating order into the path of what we call the narrative. The Netflix series Stranger Things is a good example where one major event happens and everything else is just reactions to that event, or reactions to reactions to that event. Everything is in a stable loop until the event, and then that event results in the greater narrative.
Now, I’m going to give you a chance to bail out on this reading because SPOILERS FOR ONE STONE. And I mean it, this is a pretty big spoiler, as in ‘you can read the whole book and not realise this is in there.’ I’m going to briefly outline something about One Stone I was thinking of in this vein: There is a single instigating event that disrupts the natural order of the story. That is, the servants of the DuThane family deciding to separate the newborn twins Aderyn and Rafe.
Rafe as a separated child had the Family Seal of the DuThane family, which attracted the attention of Wardell Cherish as a young man, who stole it with a plan on using it (and also to hurt Rafe). Aderyn’s neuroatypicality would have been set to an otherwise completely pedestrian path if not for Brother Fratarelli picking her out of the Assassins Guild when he needed someone assassinated, which he wouldn’t have done if he hadn’t substituted at the Cathedral At Connaught, which he wouldn’t have had to do if Rafe hadn’t murdered the priest there out of his overwrought sense of justice that he got, in no small part thanks to a childhood of being a maligned orphan.
The conspiracies were always there – it was basically something to keep a couple of unimportant family members occupied. Wardell sought out one he could manipulate – with the coin he stole when he was quite young – and that meant he found a reasonably incompetent group.
I was actually thinking about this, myself, wondering how badly I fucked up this ‘single instigatory event’ idea, and then realised that no, I actually had it.