Really, who cares?

In the very first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, Holmes confesses to Watson that he had no idea that the earth orbited the sun until Watson told him. As far as he knew, it was the other way around. Even though this seems contradictory to the omnivore of knowledge that the Sherlock Holmes character became, it was done at the time to show that he didn’t bother himself what what he considered useless (to him) details. I’ll grant, also, that this was the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes, and Doyle may not have foreseen how far this character would go.

The philosopher and novelist Albert Camus made a similar statement in his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” when he said it really did not matter to him whether the earth orbited the sun or the other way around. His thoughts were elsewhere.

I’ve read that there are seven basic plots. This, that, the other one, and four more. But I don’t really care. I can’t imagine shaping one of my plots to meet the definition of one of those seven or sitting down and saying that I’ll now write a number five. I merely write the story that I have. Similarly, they say that the typical story has a three-part structure. Well, someone says they do; maybe that’s true. I don’t pay attention. I just read the story, and the same thing happens when I write the story.

I don’t consciously fit my narrative to some prescribed structure. I write the story I have, whatever story I have. My novel-in-progress, The Sleep of Reason, for example, might be considered a four-part story. Something happens in the beginning, and then it is repeated three times through the course of the story. Did I consciously design the story to happen this way? No, certainly not at first anyway. In fact, I had considered repeating the “something” many more times, but that seemed arbitrary (and creatively exhausting), and I saw that I could make the necessary progression happen with only three iterations, so that determined the structure, which is what was necessary to tell the story I had.

I realize that being a person immersed in Western culture, and being an eclectic reader of the stories created in that culture, I have no doubt unconsciously absorbed these kinds of structural conventions. I’m sure they govern my story structure without me being aware. I suspect I imagine my stories into being with some of this basic convention at their core. My point, and I really do have a point, is that I don’t sit down in advance and create with them in mind. Nor do I analyze my stories to see how they fit such patterns. It’s really not that important to me. And I’m not sure it’s fair to the story when someone tries to make these impositions..

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