Let's talk about story telling today. Especially about how to tell a story properly. Oh sure, sure . . . there are hundreds, if not thousands, of MFA programs out there that will pontificate beautifully on how to write (tell) a story properly. And all you have to do is spend thousands of dollars to go, earn that degree, and (of course) write and become an instant success.
Right. That's the ticket. Let's all run off and enroll right now!
Or (since we're friends and we know how to bullshit with each other over just about everything) let's just sit down over a cup of coffee, a glass of beer, a pint of ale, a jug of wine, a two-liter bottle of Coke, or a quart of Pepto Bizmol (choose one or any combination, I'm not picky) and let's just talk about good, old fashion story telling.
My example of excellent story telling? Go see Pixar's newest movie, Brave.
If doesn't matter if we're talking about story telling in a novel, short story, or movie. Story telling is story telling. There's a certain structure---a certain flow---that needs to happen which, by definition, makes a story. A balance, if you will, between action and emotion. A balance between grief, anger, joy and laughter. A balance between the descriptive (visual) arts used to push the plot along and not using enough, making the whole thing feel like a card board cut out.
In its succinct form; balance.
Great story telling is the art of balancing everything in its appropriate form. Too much action in story writing (or a motion picture) and all you have is noise. Too much heart felt emotion with no possible chance of relief and all you have is a fit of depression. Too much talking without a little action to stir up the Destroyer in all of us and you have sheer boredom.
But oddly enough---there may be no such thing as too much comedy. Laughter . . . honest laughter . . . is a commodity few people ever get enough of. That, my friends, is something a lot of writers have forgotten. Laughter.
Don't care how grim the story is or how action-filled it is. Sprinkle in a little laughter. In fact I would suggest that some of the best action movies ever filmed, or books ever written, became the best because somewhere in the depths of the story line people took time to laugh--even if only briefly--at something. That juxtaposition of imminent death and amusement seems to be so part of us as human beings. We need both.
One of the best directors of action (Western) movies ever to craft a film was a guy by the name of John Ford. His movies always contained humor. Lots of action, to be sure. But humor as well. Soft, gentle humor that made the characters humane. A vivid contrast emotionally.
Pixar's Brave has it all. Action, color, grandeur, story line, humor. You will laugh and you will shed a tear (or you ain't human, fella!) If you haven't seen it on the big screen then you've missed something special.
Go see it.