The Delivered Story; The Interpreted Story

This post by David Baboulene originally appeared on his The Science of Story blog on 1/20/15.

Whenever you absorb a story, you are actually experiencing *two* stories. Or at least, two versions of the same story. This is well accepted in academia, and was first documented by the Russian Formalists in the 1920s, (Victor Shlovsky, Vladmir Propp et al) who called the first version the Syuzhet and the second version the Fabula. Great words, but let me try to simplify it to what can help a writer deliver better story today.

The first version is the delivered story. All the tangible sensory stimulation you receive from having the story communicated to your eyes and ears. So, in a film, this includes the music, images, dialogue, action, character behaviours, the poster, the trailer, the reviews you read, the blog-post, your knowledge of the star’s personal life – everything that contributes to what you think about the story.

In a book, of course, the written words are the total sensory stimulation. Here is, allegedly, the shortest novel ever written:

“For Sale. Baby’s Shoes. Never Worn.”

In this case, the total delivered story is just those six words (and whatever else you might overlay if you know it was (allegedly) written by Ernest Hemingway).


Read the full post on The Science of Story.