“There’s no reason why the simple shapes of stories can’t be fed into computers,” Vonnegut tells us in this short video.
He draws one diagram and on it plots three stories. The first he calls Man in a Hole. “It needn’t be a man, and he needn’t fall into a hole,” he adds, for the metaphorically challenged among us. He draws the vertical Fortune axis (Good/Ill), with “sickness and poverty” at the bottom and “wealth and boisterous good health” at the top. At the midpoint, he draws the X axis — B (for beginning) to E (for electricity, of course).
He starts on the y axis a bit above the midpoint -- “why start with a depressing person?” --then draws a sine wave dropping down toward the bottom and rising up again: Somebody gets into trouble and gets out of it. “People love that story,” he says. “They never get sick of it!”
Then it's Boy Meets Girl, starting at the midpoint of F – “an average person on an average day, not expecting anything.” He draws a double sine wave rising up and then down and then up again. “Something wonderful happens, Oh hell. Got it back again.” The classic turnaround story.
The next one is more complicated, he warns. Despite what he’s just said, he starts at the bottom and stays there—a wretched person, a little girl, no less, has lost her mother and her father has married again to a horrible woman. The curve hovers at the bottom. A fairy godmother arrives, bestowing much-needed resources (shoes, a dress, mascara). With each gift, the line goes up incrementally, like a bar graph. The girl goes to a dance. The clock strikes 12:00. The resources dry up. The line drops almost straight down, but not all the way back (she has those memories). The prince finds her, the shoe fits, off-scale happiness ensues. The Cinderella story is “the most popular story in our Western civilization. Every time it’s retold somebody makes another million dollars. You’re welcome to do it.”
So let's do it! Start typing!
#binders #kurtvonnegut #storytelling