Monday, 20 April 2009

853 - Hubble Bubble

Storying: the conscious creation and pursuit of a storyline as a means of expressing one's identity. Follow the tags and you'll see what I have written on it so far.

Anyway, the idea has caught hold of me, and is shaping my reading. I've focussed on narrative so far, on plotting. Christopher Booker's 'Seven Basic Plots' and Robert McKee's 'Story'. The big ideas across religious continents, the ways they shift, with the help of books by Karen Armstrong. The way we construct our identity out of the activities we perform together, and therefore, the way that the activities we choose can be suited in different ways to a 21st Century public and/or private identity. Tensions between alternative modes of living - hunter-gathering and farming, as detailed by Hugh Brody. Re: the Whitley Bay angle, this has meant that I have focussed my thinking on the story arc of decay and regeneration.

Recently, however, I've begun to realise plot-construction is not the only tool in the toolbox. Simon Beaufoy made this point explicitly at the Story Engine Conference I attended in February. Because it was true - narrative is not enough to make a story - I ignored him. Sometimes it takes a while for my brain to take on board a new idea. Simon was pressing for less action, more character exploration. My ostrich-instinct was to protest: how can you make a truly gripping story out of character alone? (Though, of course, he wasn't suggesting character alone.)

Then I dug up Jay Griffith's first book, on the wildness and fecundity of time. And Susan Greenfield on the environmental pressures that determine, at least in part, how our brains change. And Norman Doidge on neuroplasticity. The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology on niche construction. Lastly, Rita Carter on Multiplicity of personality - the theory that we can possess more than one personality, at different levels of development, as a valid response to external and internal pressures, if our neuroplastic knitting accretes around several behaviours, memories, beliefs, instead of just one.

All of which links, like this: where the commerce of Hollywood drives for straightforward action plots, wild time allows for the development of multiple plot-lines, like rampant vines in a rainforest. Wild plotlines suit multi-character explorations, complexity, the partial or full development of a story - allowing nature to abort unviable exercises in cultural niche construction, whilst those that thrive, spread. The tangle of a vibrant rainforest is the lush environment of neural networks thriving in a stimulated brain. And as the plotlines grow, so do the personalities within our minds, in response to new stimuli - technologies, ideas, pressures and seductions - from the world around us. As I continue to read Rita's book, and explore the personalities that make up me, I will also be learning how to shape them, even create them. And I will begin to 'get' that storying is as much about personality as circumstance.

[Hubble bubble, because each of Shakespeare's characters is formed in some degree this way, by playwright, actors, and audience, and as an exercise in fecundity, Shakespeare's canon is hard to beat. From witches on a wild heath, through Lear to Prospero, and courtly, commercial, martial dramas, and the transcendance of A Winter's Tale, his work truly is himself time and again, looped, spooled and knit through our culture and natures both, in breadth and height and depth.]

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