Connectedness

I’ve covered aspects of this area here before, but now I’ve got scientific proof on my side!

I don’t do well with abstract / rambling plays. Perhaps the playwright intended for the story to make cohesive sense and they just weren’t able to execute it. That happens. I’ve been there. And then there are the writers who are doing, ah, experimental work. Fast and furious dialogue that doesn’t quite add up. Actors jumping around the stage showing how their physicality embodies their emotions. It’s fun up to a point. And that point is the point where I start to long for a story. You know. Beginning, middle, end, protagonist, conflict, escalating stakes, some big question on the table, and a resolution of some sort.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m asking too much, wanting something that pulls me along in some kind of linear fashion. I’m not looking for a return to an old-fashioned kind of play like The Subject Was Roses; I just want to feel satisfied at the end of the evening.

And then I read an article in The Sun Magazine, November 2012 issue. (The Sun is my all-time fav magazine, by the way. Do yourself a favor and check it out on-line, and then go get a subscription. Interviews, essays, photos, short stories, poetry, and contributions called Readers Write – and nearly everything is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Bonus, there are NO ADS.) Anyway, in an interview called “If Only We Would Listen,” writer-speaker-activist Parker J. Palmer was making the point that school systems are failing students by focusing on dumping facts into students’ heads and calling it education.

He says, “We know from research that the brain’s weakest function is the retention of isolated bits of data. Its strongest function is the retention of pattern, narrative, story, and system. The brain is a patterning organ, and it thrives on making connections, which is why I say that good teachers have a ‘capacity for connectedness.’”

Finally, an explanation on why I love a story. I get to find a pattern, make connections, and hang on to the narrative. I’m not cranky. I’m hard-wired this way.

3 Comments

  • By analynrevilla, January 8, 2013 @ 11:13 am

    Hi Nancy,
    Well put. The scientific proof you described is exactly what I’m looking for. Thanks! (BTW, the Sun maagazine is also a favourite of mine. You reminded me to get a subscription to this periodical, which I’ve been meaning to do.) – Analyn

  • By Robin Byrd, January 9, 2013 @ 10:23 am

    Hey, Nancy — I love this article and I love story, too. I almost screamed out loud when you broke down what you want in a story: “Beginning, middle, end, protagonist, conflict, escalating stakes, some big question on the table, and a resolution of some sort.” I am in the process of giving feedback on a script and that is exactly what I have to discuss. Answering those questions/checking off those components of story should be an absolute step in writing a script like spell checking the finished script (typos can make a script hard to follow – don’t give anyone a reason to put your script down). Writing a synopsis can help with verifying your story has the basis components because you usually have to have one (a synopsis) and those things go through your mind when you are writing it. Recently, I had to send a logline with a submission which is a screenwriting thing but it also helps to be able to verbalize what your play is about in a sentence, i.e. A hero who wants something, takes action, meets with conflict that leads to a climax and a resolution.
    I also read the SUN. 🙂 What an amazing thing the brain is. Seems that that scientific proof should put storytellers in a new and better light…

  • By nancybeverly, January 9, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

    Great to hear from you both! And yes, when you have to do a synopsis (or even a logline), boy that gets you to thinking if the story is working!

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