I am for you

the elements of the story

a story moves something from here to there

What is a story? I mean, really, what are the unique components that make up this particular thing that we call “story”.

Well, one way to look at it is that a story is a pattern, a process, the way a relationship between things changes over time. Thus, a story requires at least two elements that interact.

And the most basic kinds of interactions we find in the universe are:

1. A gets something from B

A ← B

1. B gets something from A

A → B

3. A and B exchange things.

A ↔ B

4. Neither A nor B get anything.


The adult human brain tends to prefer the third kind of story the best, which is why the common idea of direct monetary exchanges came about. It’s easy to tell a story about an exchange between A and B if you use numbers and elementary school arithmetic. But these stories of quantity exchange get pretty dull after a while, don’t they? We may like the easy life for a while, but eventually we come to crave quality, meaning, excitement, and challenge, and we also sometimes can’t find a satisfying way to quantify the things we have to offer, so we start creating stories, in both real life and just in our heads, where we are pirates stealing treasure (story number 1), or we are wealthy philanthropists or superheroes saving the world (story number 2), and even sometimes a little of both for a Robin Hood style story of stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

And occasionally, when we’re feeling totally overwhelmed, we like to tell stories where we are just sitting there like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern waiting forlornly for their Godot (story 4).

And, eventually, even all those kinds of stories become dull, and we look for some fifth kind of tale to amuse ourselves.

In which case, we might just start telling stories where A and B collaboratively merge to create something entirely new, which they then offer to C, and then wait patiently for the rest of the story to unfold…


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