Thursday, August 30, 2012

Balance

There is a form of modern short story where the selected narrative encompasses a single moment in time, suspended equally between an unknown (but inferred) past and an unknown (but inferred) future. It is a form of the 'slice of life' story, where the scene is acted out in real time, without the aid of much in the way of diegesis (narrative explanatory storytelling.) These kinds of stories have developed partly because of our knowledge of the way cinema works, where we are used to seeing scenes play out without a narrator telling us what they think, feel, perceive. It allows the viewer/reader to make meaning for themselves, from the clues and actions supplied.

Sometimes the story will work on the reader's pre-existing knowledge of patterns of behaviour, of character types or of stored memory of things we are uneasy about (nightmare images, signifiers of recurring character archetypes.)

The visual joke/story below is another example of this process.


The story itself captures a single moment, but it is full of subtext and potential conflict based on our pre-existing knowledge and fears. Darth Vader has become such a well known character over the last 35 years that he has joined traditional figures like: the big bad wolf, monsters under the bed, ghosts, spiders etc, as immediate sources of conflict and fear. 
That's what gives this story potency, the fact that we know he is the absolute last person you'd want to have slip and land on his backside.

Some other great ingredients here are the wet floor sign and especially the boom box. The boom box works two ways, as a device to block the sound of Darth Vader's approaching footsteps and also to humanize the trooper mopping the floor. An extra ingredient in the subtext is that the floor mopping trooper is an everyman, the classic underdog, therefore (in this specific context) the figure the audience will empathize with. That's what gives the joke real bite. The underdog figure feels like he could be us.

You can find good story anywhere, if you know what to look for and how to develop it. 

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