Told by an idiot, No. 7

In 1916, after extensive study, French writer Georges Polti announced that all the stories in classical and modern literature could be reduced to 36 essential situations.

Futility Closet

Au contraire! There are only two possible stories in the whole of literature:

1. Something happens.

2. Nothing happens.

All True Literature is, of course, in the second camp. The other kind is vile pulp for the kiddies, and we turn up our noses at it to prove that we are Cultured People.

    (signed)
    H. Smiggy McStudge

Comments

  1. chortle

    I read the 36 dramatic situations. It was like all other alleged how-to-write books that enumerate plots: useless. Giving no advice that would actually be practical for help.

    Almost as bad as character type books. I’ve only heard of two authors using those. One did it to intentionally variegate her characters, because they would all default to Apollonians if she didn’t watch out. The other did to check her characterization: if she could tell what type her characters were, they needed more work.

    • If she could tell what type her characters were, they needed more work.

      That’s an excellent idea. I occasionally use TV Tropes for the same purpose. (Only occasionally, because Lord have mercy, it’s easy to lose hours in the wikihole there.)

      Of course, Smiggy thinks it’s a terrible idea, because the characters should all be balding middle-aged English professors who wish they were having a fling with a nubile young student. Nothing ever happens to that kind of people; least of all the fling.

  2. Stephen J. says:

    And thanks to the old joke, we know that Russian literature falls into *both* categories: “Nothing happened for 873 pages, after which someone’s aunt died.”

    • Which reminds me of another old joke:

      In an English novel, two people want each other, and in the end they get each other.
      In a French novel, two people want each other, and in the end they don’t get each other.
      In a Russian novel, two people don’t want or get each other, and they spend 800 pages whining about it.

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