Archive for April 23, 2007

Everyone Loves a Good Story, Part 2

April 23, 2007


Plot, character, suspense, pace, resolution, hardship, loss, joy — good stories have them all.

But that’s like saying: wheels, motor, paint, plastic, gas — good cars have them all. It doesn’t really say anything about why we like cars.

I think we like stories because they draw us in. They weave a kind of spell over us. Indeed, according to Tolkien in his great essay On Fairy Stories, the word spell means a story told as well as a formula of power over living men.

By them we are lifted out of ourselves and we enter into the minds of others — ostensibly the minds of the characters in the stories — but in truth, the minds of the authors who tell the stories. It is magic — the closest thing to magic that we can know without delving into matters too great for mortals.

And what wonders do we behold? Well, that depends on the author. Some worlds are dark and ugly, others bright, some sticky sweet and cloying, others majestic and profound. It depends.

And do we like what we find? Again it depends — it depends on who we are. If we are shallow, depth will elude us and perhaps even annoy or frighten. If we’re deep, shallowness will disgust us or bore us. It is a matter of taste — but that’s not all — and some people really do have better taste than other folks.

Tomorrow I’ll say more and I’ll do it by talking about the things I like in the Harry Potter stories.