Storytelling in magical worlds

November 3, 2015

I'm currently watching Once Upon a Time (Netflix) and it's an absolutely phenomenal piece of storytelling. It has aso drawn attention to the fact that we are so addicted to other worlds, to creating a world where the rules are different to our own. 

This has also coincided with recently seeing a production of Dogfight the musical. At the end of the musical Rose takes back the man that left her. She has the line "I stopped waiting" but yet as soon as he says that he lost his friends in the war she kind of just apologises for that and she hugs him. (I'm not sure how much of this was from the direction or from the writing). I had the overwhelming feeling that her accepting him back, after everything he did to her was so "unrealistic". A better way of thinking about it I think is that the writing did not earn the ending. The reason why the ending was earned was because there was a social expectation that heroes that go to war are somehow deserving of something and that here what he was deserving of is Rose's love again, she is his prize for being brave and returning. The problem was that I don't buy into that social expectation therefore because the resolution came from outside the narrative world, I felt the ending wasn't as strong. 


I think this is why we are so attracted to fairytales and stories that are in other worlds, such as ones with magic. because the audience is concious that the world is a blank slate, the storyteller is forced to construct every bit of that world within the narrative, they must make the concious choice to bring in parts of the real world, it is less easy to let them slip in. 

If dogfight were set in a more obviously make-believe world then it would be less easy to allow those social expectations form our world into the world of the story. A storyteller can choose to "Say yes" to these social expectations but they must "say yes" to it through the whole narrative and also take responsibility for anything they are conciously supporting. 

NOTE: I really enjoyed the dogfight production I saw and actually think there are some examples of great writing in the musical. I also think no narrative can be perfect, becuase once we discover the perfect narrative then what's the point of writing more. I talk about other work because I am learning from their process, not because I want to show how bad it is or how good someone else's work is. 

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