1. cuzzo
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    cuzzo New Member

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    Is there a consensus about stories within a story?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by cuzzo, Oct 2, 2011.

    Probably my favorite part of fantasies is when one character tells a story to another. However, I've heard from my friends that this is really annoying to them. It seems like this might be one of those things that people are pretty polarized about.

    Anyway, do most people like or dislike stories within a story?

    I ask because in most of the stories that I've planned out or written, this happens (since I like it so much).
     
  2. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    If it is done well, I'd enjoy it.

    A story within a story is always fun to read. I like it.
     
  3. Melanie
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    Melanie Member

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    I think it can can go both ways, but mostly good, in my opinion. It's a good way to give history/background to help the reader get a clearer picture.
     
  4. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I am all for it, in most high fantasy there has to be a story within a story to get all the facts across.
     
  5. Morgan
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    Morgan Member

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    I like it, and as Jhunter said, in fantasy you almost have to in order to fill in the story world. It's better to have someone with a reason explain things to another person than to have a flashback, or have the MC just happen to think about the history of the world.
     
  6. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    It depends for me. There's times I like it and times I don't. I've been reading Stephen King's Dark Tower series of late, and his book 4 (Wizard and Glass) is mostly one big story within a story. I enjoyed it greatly. I'm currently on his book 5 (Wolves of the Calla) and it's been dragging on due to work, time, and a few side projects of mine. But it also has a story within a story, and it's one related to the main plot and one of the characters, but it has been so very slow in "connecting" itself (Father Callahan's, the priest from Salem's Lot, story for those who know the book). This could be because I've literally been reading this book for a couple months now, setting it down for weeks at a time, and my focus has been elsewhere. But I also think for a story within a story to be successful, there needs to be focus. A reader must be able to grasp why the writer is dragging them along on this "external" story and what it has to do with the main story.
     
  7. mazzee
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    mazzee New Member

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    It's easy to get lost (in a good way) in a story within a story.

    One of my favorite examples is Roald Dahl's The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. It's a story about a guy who reads a story about a guy. And then changes his life based on the story. Fantastic.
     
  8. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    I plan to do this in my current novel with one of the main characters. However, if there's too much to be explained, the story-within-a-story would fit better in a spin-off work rather than the main story.
     
  9. cuzzo
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    cuzzo New Member

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    Well, after 8 of 8 responses in favor of stories within stories I feel better now.

    I always thought this was the best part of Fantasy and Sci Fi, so it's good to hear some reinforcement.
     
  10. Croga
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    Croga Member

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    Have seen it done good and done bad.
    Usually a bad example is when the story is more interesting than the book it is in or when the story has been watered down and weakened to avoid that happening.
    Other problems, but ones that are sometimes are strengths is when the story reflects the novel, which is good, but with no subtlety what so ever or when the story in the story is useless and pointless filler that has its own irrelevant characters, actions, themes and issues, but does not even forward the story we were reading.

    The above good and bad is on display in one of my favorite books the Watchmen. He bombards us with secondary texts and stories while already telling a non linear story. This jolts me out of the story every time and on re-read I skip all the secondary texts, but on my first reading some of it helped set the tone and character.
    If i was not so engrossed in the book, I would of put it down and walked away the second i seen there was so much superficially irrelevant side plot.
     
  11. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I dislike them. Anything that drifts away from the main characters and their story ticks me off and automatically feels like word-padding. I tend to skim read them and sometimes, when they turn out to be very long, I just completely skip them.
     
  12. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    There aren't many consensuses for topics related to writing. It mostly depends on whether you as the author can make it work or not. Frame narratives are common enough, Frankenstein is the most notable example. I think you are referring to something slightly different. A character telling a story to another character through dialogue? I remember the beginning of the Turn of the Screw by Henry James, which began like that. I personally hated it because the sentences were so long and wordy. That being said, if you're worried about the readers not liking it, it's simple. Make it interesting, well written, and possibly short. Oh, and make it so that the readers care about the character telling the story. We will only enjoy it if we enjoy the character's company, so to speak.
     

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