Great stories forget about the rules of physics

Love that line. It rings true with me. You can see more like this over at Kelly Spitzer’s blog, as she plays word association with Tania Hershman. 

And while I’m talking of Tania, the new issue of The Short Review’s out.
I noticed WomenRuleWriter picked up on the same quote as I did. It’s this:
“I think that a “story” has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. There has to be a situation, and characters, and the characters have to DO things — things that have an effect on the situation and the other characters — and the characters must be changed by the effects of those things. A lot of modern fiction is just vignettes, not stories — the difference is that the characters don’t take any action, or there isn’t an end” – David D Levine
And I’m not sure that not having an ‘end’ is a bad thing. I like it when I know the characters carry on after the story’s finished, and I like vignettes; being shown a situation can be every bit as affecting and big as being taken on the journey of a story. I’m not disagreeing with him totally, he has a point. I quite like the sound of his collection too…
What do you think?



0 Comments on “Great stories forget about the rules of physics

  1.  by  Anne Brooke

    Interesting – as I’ve said before I think 90% of the power of a short story lies in its ending (whether vignette or not, “unresolved” or not), whereas only 10% of a novel’s power lies in its finish.Possibly controversial, but I think there’s a truth there, nonetheless. I am more dissatisfied about a short story’s poor ending than I am if a novel has the same defect. The ending – whatever form it takes – must carry power and precision.Axxx

  2.  by  Tania Hershman

    Anne, I must agree that a story’s is vital, but I also think a novel has to end well. I have been very disappointed, after putting in many, many hours, when a novel simply drifts off… one of those experiences where you turn the page and then, whoops, it’s finished. Urgh. Hate that!

  3.  by  Nik's Blog

    Yes I agree with you both – an ending, whatever the length, is the punchline. It’s what the whole thing’s been building up to, and let’s face it, they’re not easy to get right.But they don’t need to be definite and a story can be a story without character-conflict-reaction-conclusion. I’m thinking of your The Hand, of Hemingway’s A Simple Enquiry. Stories can just show us things, and that’s just as rewarding.Nik

  4.  by  Jacqueline Christodoulou

    I don’t actually mind there not being a conclusive ending to a story, novel or otherwise. It was Sarbin I think who wrote about narratives becoming stories with a beginning, mjiddle and ending ‘to differentiate them from lists’!I feel that focusing on what kind of ending is a very subjuective matter. Interesting post.

  5.  by  Emerging Writer

    An end of some kind is very important, particularly in a short story. You can’t just stop writing. But I agree with you that it’s great when the characters and plot seem to have a life beyond that last full stop.

  6.  by  Nik's Blog

    Hey EW, thanks for dropping by. You’re right, an ending, the right ending, a good ending, is important in, I’d say, any story, be it a long one or not; I think Jacqueline’s hit the nail on the head in saying it doesn’t need to be ‘conclusive’. We need to know the story’s finished (or should that be: the piece of writing?), and we need that ending to be satisfactory – but the character’s/characters’ story doesn’t need to end at the same point as the story ends. I think. If that makes sense! Because, as you say (and I think you’re right) it is great when plot and character go on after that last full stop.Thanks for commenting and making me think about this again.Nik

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