Rag Doll Stories
The October 19 issue of the New Yorker is very interesting from a writing point of view. The most provocative article to me was “The Gossip mill,”by Rebecca Mead, which takes the reader inside Alloy. a company that produces best-sellers by committee. They’re the minds behind the Traveling Pants and Gossip Girl series.
The first part of the article takes us inside a story meeting where a murder mystery morphs into a dozen different forms over the course of ten minutes. At first, I was a bit taken aback by this process, the story was like a rag doll of indeterminate species, its limbs being torn off and others being basted on, only to be replaced by something completely different and then turned inside out. But, you know, the story they were coming with was kinda interesting.
This approach to story making is antithetical to the solitary writer mythos. I’ve noticed that often people–consciously ot not–write a story to express a part of themselves. So when someone suggests changes to the story, the author feels personally attacked. The problem with hammering out a story in solitude and connecting it so deeply with oneself is that sometimes what seems obvious to the author is mystifying to the reader. The other problem is that storytelling, in the end, is an act of communication. It is the author knowing how to use the raw material of reader’s imagination to build something.
This rag doll approach to story might be a good way for writers to play constructively with storytelling. To explore the possibilities of a narrative and how it plays with an audience without having to put their own story on the line. Perhaps the insights writers have while playing this game will begin to seep into their work.