The Shape of a Story

I just watched Vonnegrut’s “The Shape of a Story” video on youtube. It was a pretty funny satire on the stereotypical stories, but I’m not certain it is necessarily true. Some parts are true of course, because it is making fun of stereotypes, but it’s not universally true.

Many stories in all media have varying ‘wellness’ archs. There are many that act as the inverse of his story, stories about evil snobs getting brought low, or shitty people staying shitty and miserable. One of the most popular types of stories in history, the tragedy, by definition does not have happy endings!

So yes, you can pump out a thousand formulaic underdog, boy gets girl, or standard good day-conflict-victory style stories, and assuming its quality isn’t abysmal, get good returns, but you can also make good movies that do not follow the model at all.

Talking about story shape, ‘The Wife Comes To Yellow Sky’ and ‘Ice Man’ illustrate my point pretty well. Yellow Sky fits Vonnegrut’s first shape near perfectly, there’s the post marriage bliss, there’s the conflict of the gunman, and then there’s the resolution of the gunman to leave them in happily married peace. Meanwhile, Ice Man does the exact opposite, going from the main characters in the story coming off of a victorious high, to the end that has the protagonists losing their money and heading to jail.┬áBoth are fine stories (I didn’t feel like Ice Man flowed well, but that’s not due to its structure), but one follows the story shape and the other does not.

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