Peeking Through Narrow Windows

Basically every single storyteller can benefit from looking at how other people tell their stories. In videogames, there’s a poor reference pool for most consumers, where games are being produced for an audience that Warren Specter once said ‘has read one book and seen one movie‘ and then further clarified the book was some variant of Lord of the Rings, the movie some variant of Alien. People who write books often don’t have a strong opinion of people who write theatre, or radio, or god help them both, television. Hearing my poet teacher referring disdainfully to narrative on television was amusing, to say the least.

People who tell stories – narratives – in songs have a remarkable challenge in how quickly they have to convey character. Consider this wonderful little piece, made by Tom Walts (full version here), where we learn about two people, only while talking about one. The speaker asserts things, assuming things. He – I think it’s reasonable in this context, to assume the speaking character is male – talks about this neighbour, this person who has some project, he talks about details about that person’s life.

In so doing, you realise that he’s watching this guy’s mail; he’s paying attention to his lawn, watching for changes in his life and yard, and thinking of himself as somehow representative of the rest of the neighbourhood, that he has some responsibility. Paranoia fuels him, but his actions feel to him justified. Is his neighbour a bad guy? Is he the bad guy?

The story is only three minutes long. You don’t know. You don’t get to know. You don’t know if it’s gossip or if it’s real, if the speaker is justified or not. Those narratives are left for the listener to imagine.

This creepiness, this two-for-one narrative tool, fascinates me. I have to study this.

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