We’ve talked before about storytelling, and the importance of “story” to writing fiction (not to mention to reading same) and even whether “story” requires a recipient, i.e. one “told to,” in order to be a story. (By extension, a written story must then require a reader. Maybe.)

So what does it mean then, when – for example – I ping someone’s piece by saying that something (the narrative voice, the odd word choices, the excess of descriptive detail, the narrator’s lyrical musings, whatever), “gets in the way of the story?” What is it, this story, that doesn’t have time for wordplay, extensive and deep description of some elements of the “story,” or omphaloskepsis?

Could one infer from such comments as cited above, that visual details – whether of a particular setting or person – are not part of the story? That the narrator’s diction – whatever the mode, be it first person, second, or any of the annoying thirds – isn’t part of the story? That the narrator’s thoughts aren’t part of the story?

Where then does the line fall? If any of the elements of storytelling can “get in the way” of “the story” how is it that there can be a story if we take away some or all of any of those elements? Speaking as one who has (righteously) been accused of taking great pains on setting and mood, and whose prose has been accused of “getting in the way of the story” I think a lot about this. Because on the other hand, some folks have responded that such attention to these details puts them “in the story.” Which – I think – is in fact the goal, ain’t it?

So do some folks want their story straight, no chaser, like an 8-year-old recounting the plot of the movie she just saw? “So then this guy goes over there and then she steals a car so they’re driving and they get to the cliff and these Indians come up behind them and a big whale jumps up out of the river…..” und so weider

Is the “story” just the sequence of events, Joe Friday-style, and everything that isn’t moving is decoration? Or what? I’d love to hear your thoughts.