Story and Art

Awhile ago I wrote this post about whether or not video games are art:   If you don’t have time to read it, let me summarize.  I’m of the opinion that video games are art since they are made up of components that are art (writing, drawing, music, etc.) The only part of a video game that is even open to the “what makes art” debate is the gameplay itself.  I still think gameplay could be art in itself, but I landed on the fence.

I was thinking back on that post while I drove to downtown Indy the other day and realized that the same question could be asked about story.  Is story art?  We consider writing and movies art, but are their stories art in itself or are they only art in their respective  final forms?

It seems to me that any kind of art could contain story.  Novels are just written stories — story combined with language.  You can tell the same story a million different ways.  The Christian narrative of a savior dying for the world appears in millions of tales.  Or consider common story patterns, “a boy/girl leaves home with a job to do but is distracted by ___.  As a result they are set upon by___.”  It’s the format of Little Red Riding Hood, obviously, but it could describe the story of Jonah and the Whale or any number of traditional stories from all over the world.  The wikipedia page makes references to North African retellings.  The tvtropes page goes on forever on all the different tropes it originated.

Story is common.  We hear the same stories over and over again and love them every time so long as the bits around the story are good.  Here is an example:  A young/innocent man dreams of adventure.  When trouble comes to him he is mentored by a wise/crazy old man.  Together they set off with a party that includes at least one dashing rogue.  The mentor figure is killed in their journey and the young/innocent man must complete his journey alone.

Tell me, did I just describe Lord of the Rings?  With Frodo as the young man (he isn’t all that young in the books, but he still qualifies as innocent),  Gandalf as the wise potentially crazy old man, and Aragorn as the dashing rogue?  Or am I describing, say, Star Wars?  With Luke Skywalker as the young man, Obi-Wan Kenobi as the wise / crazy old man, and Han Solo as the dashing rogue?  It isn’t an uncommon story, though the telling vary widely.

I’m writing this all out because I haven’t quite settled on the idea or what is “story” and what is plot with trimmings.  I’m inclined to think that story isn’t art.  It isn’t rare or special.  Instead story tends to be universal and so common that each person is making their own life story each day.  However, it seems to be an essential element of many forms of art.  Story is a component that when combined with craftsmanship, time, and hard work can become a work of art.

I’m just thinking out loud.

Posted in Language, Media, Philosophy, Writing.

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