April 13, 2017

"There is no reason why the simple shapes of stories can’t be fed into computers. They are beautiful shapes."

Said Kurt Vonnegut, drawing diagrams on a blackboard:



I found that via this Atlantic article, "The Six Main Arcs in Storytelling, as Identified by an A.I./A machine mapped the most frequently used emotional trajectories in fiction, and compared them with the ones readers like best."

The 6 shapes are:
1. Rags to Riches (rise)

2. Riches to Rags (fall)

3. Man in a Hole (fall then rise)

4. Icarus (rise then fall)

5. Cinderella (rise then fall then rise)

6. Oedipus (fall then rise then fall)

40 comments:

MadisonMan said...

I can't see a Vonnegut post without thinking of the great scene from Back to School.

mockturtle said...

Makes me think of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

MadisonMan said...

And This one!

tcrosse said...

Makes me think of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

I didn't get where I am today by worrying about Reginald Perrin.

MaxedOutMama said...

He missed the political-rats-and-distress-of-voters arc. Of course it's hard to draw in a nice swooping line. You have a bunch of rats wandering around all over the place making innocent people feel disgust and misery.

Nonetheless, it's a story, and a big one.

buwaya said...

Game of Thrones, with multiple parallel complex storylines, then is like a track of global warming temperature predictions -

http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/CMIP5-90-models-global-Tsfc-vs-obs-thru-2013.png

mockturtle said...

I didn't get where I am today by worrying about Reginald Perrin.

;-) The boss had the best line. Remember the whoopee cushion?

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HoodlumDoodlum said...

Joseph Campbell - The Hero With A Thousand Faces (collected works)

Joseph Campbell: The Power of Myth (DVD)

Bob Ellison said...

What about "Journey"? That's one of the most important story arcs. Oedipus, Huckleberry Finn, c'mon.

MisterBuddwing said...

Might I suggest a Roald Dahl short story called "The Great Automatic Grammatizator." It's about a publishing company employee named Adolph Knipe who invents a computer that can write stories. (The ending is a hoot, IMHO.)

http://lengish.com/texts/text-89.html

William said...

Run on the treadmill. Weary of it. Die.--Death of a Salesman.

tim in vermont said...

So did the computer read and discern the emotional arc? That would impress me. Otherwise this could have been done in Excel.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

7. Porn (rise then fall then rise then fall then rise then fall then rise then fall)

tim in vermont said...

A picaresque novel will still have a story arc. And there's a good reason Flannery O'Connor isn't a perennial best seller.

tim in vermont said...

Combine O'Connor and porn and you get "A Hard Man is Good to Find."

Etienne said...

tim in vermont said...A Hard Man is Good to Find

Argh... Especially these days...

traditionalguy said...

Beowulf is the root story for viking's literature. When Hrothgar asks him for help, the rules of engagement went out the window until it was over.

Sebastian said...

What about Kafka? No rise, no fall, no rise, no fall, still stuck.

David Baker said...

8 thru 100: The Laslo principle.

eddie willers said...

“There is only one love story: Boy meets girl, Girl gets boy into pickle, Boy gets pickle into girl.”
― Jack Woodford

Sebastian said...

Then there's the Christian story: fall sets up rise which wipes out all falls. It's the story to end all stories: after the Resurrection, what rise matters, and what fall?

Guildofcannonballs said...

The reason is Vannegout is a lzy piece of shit.

It's just as Tuco said: if you're gonna shoot, shoot, don't talk.


Then that wierd sound effecct.

Duh uh uh nan na nuh NAH AHHHHH


Duh uh uh nah, na na nah,,,,


DUh uh uh nah, na na na.,,,

Big Mike said...

I can think of a number of Shakespeare's plays which don't seem to fit into one of Vonnegut's six plot lines: "Henry V," for instance, or comedies like "Midsummer Night's Dream." One can pound "Macbeth" into plot line #4, but what about "Taming of the Shrew" or "Cymbeline"?

rhhardin said...

Klavan says the appeal of romcoms for women is the guy apologizing scene.

I've noticed since then that it's always there.

However, as in Two Weeks Notice, I read it as the guy saying what the woman wants to hear. Not insincerely but indicating that he can intuit what she wants and means to do so, which is they guys' reading.

cf said...

Yes, no pounding of Shakespeare into prefigured shapes, please and thank you... but also

Awww, i loved this video and Mr. Vonnegut's graphic renderings. I never would have thought the man who wrote Cat's cradle would be so Uncle Folksy soft and accessible. Aww.

So grateful for Civilization. Right now, right here.

Mona!!!!!! and me.

Crazy Jane said...

Some fiction writer/expert, whose name I forgot long ago, said there were only two setups in fiction:

1. A man (okay, person) goes out in search of adventure.

2. A stranger rides into town.

Laslo Spatula said...

Me, I'm just going to break it down to two versions:

1. The Protagonist Dies at the End.

2. The Protagonist Dies somewhere after the End.

Protagonists die, it is just a matter of whether you put the ending of the story before or after.

Of course, someone will inevitably point out that there is some science-fiction character or comic-book-hero who is Immortal. Sure. OK.

But -- say -- Superman without the possibility of Kryptonite is not a Protagonist, he's just a Jerk. The only reason you would follow the story of a Protagonist Who Can't Die is to know you are just waiting for the Special Issue when they DO finally die.

Then you buy a lot of copies of the Issue thinking it will be worth something someday, except the Protagonist will be brought back to Life to Repeat the Circle, and all those 'Death' issues aren't even worth face value now, because everyone and their brother bought multiple copies all thinking THEY'D strike it rich.

Anyway.

I am Laslo.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

So Girls is a Cinderella story?

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Seinfeld is an Oepidus story.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Trump is either a Man in a Hole Story or an Oepidus story. We don't know yet as we don't know how it ends.

exiledonmainstreet said...

Sebastian said...
What about Kafka? No rise, no fall, no rise, no fall, still stuck"

As dreary as Gregor Samsa's job and home life might have been, his fortunes took a pretty big turn for the worse when he found he had been turned into a friggin' cockroach.

Kafka is more: starts out bad, then gets really, really shitty, stays shitty, will always be shitty.

Known Unknown said...

David Lynch probably likes shapes, but not necessarily these shapes.

chickelit said...

Reminded me of the Freitag Pyramid and The Chemistry of Storytelling.

Craig said...

Read Ed King by David Guterson. It's the Oedipus Myth in a nearly believable modern context with a software billionaire as the protagonist named in the title. A 300 page explication of a one-liner.

LakeLevel said...

They forgot one. No rise, No fall. Nothing happens at all, because someone might get offended. A lot of fiction coming out of the Manhattan publishers these days follows this arc, AKA a boot stomping on your face forever.

rhhardin said...

Nicholas Sparks. At least of the pair dies. Women like that.

Saint Croix said...

Now I'm trying to figure out that damn Casablanca story arc.

Rise than Fall than Rise?

Except for that damn flashback!

Rise than Fall into the past Rise than Fall back to the future Rise!

Plus you got mini rises and falls all throughout the damn thing. Virgins from Bulgaria and French sing-alongs. It's a rise and fall spectacular!

Up and downs, baby. It's all about the ups and downs.

William said...

As I remember Krapp's Last Tape by Beckett, it had something to do with the problem of constipation brought on by eating too many bananas. Beckett didn't traffic in the cheap thrills of story arcs, although something may have happened in Waiting for Godot.

Jeff Gee said...

For a long time I was convinced all stories boiled down to a combination or a variant of these three: 1) Boy Meets Girl 2) The Worm Turns 3) Rags to Riches. But then I remembered 4) Boy Trapped in Refrigerator Eats Own Foot, and I had to start over.