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100 Aspects of Genre: Story v. Sentence
UK Ninja Mix
bram452

Originally published at Lizard Brain. You can comment here or there.

A couple of years ago, I had a very pleasant dinner with (among others) THE Sodomite Hal Duncan, a delightful and brilliant gentleman and good dinner conversation besides.  We had a polite disagreement that has come up again recently, and I find myself reviewing my position in the conversation we had back then and amending my position (without actually going so far as to embrace his).  The subject was whether text and meaning were separable.  This is the kind of thing that happens when overly intellectual writer types sit down over pizza, and should be carefully considered when arranging dinner parties for fear that it take over the table.  Hal’s take, as well as I remember it, was that the literal series of words on the page *is* the story, and any change to that sequence of words necessarily makes it a different story.  My take was that story was more structural: that a particular image or meaning can be reached by a variety of different arrangements of words, and one story can be told using different words without doing violence to the story itself.

Constant readers of the blog here may remember David Hartwell calling me on my poor scholarship over a previous post.  If you skipped the comments on that, the relevant bits were “This is intelligent and thoughtful, but it ignores most of what other intelligent and thoughtful people have said about genre over the last forty years, and that is a severe difficulty, leading to some wheel-reinvention and loose terminology.” and “…I’d suggest starting with Delany’s discussion in The Jewel-Hinged Jaw.”

"A story is not a replacement of one set of words by another -- plot-synopsis, detailed recounting, or analysis. The story is what happens in the reader's mind as his eyes move from the first word to the second, the second to the third, and so on to the end of the tale." -- Delany

So like a good boy, I toddled out and bought The Jewel-Hinged Jaw, and I’m still digesting it.  One of the points Delaney makes in the first essay (or at least the first essay in my edition — apparently it’s a slightly different lineup than the original) was essentially Hal’s point.  Specifically, Delaney argues that “Put in opposition to ‘style,’ there is no such thing as ‘content.’”  And he makes a pretty strong case.  He posits the example of two different translators creating with the same content two wildly different books (one of them engaging, the other unreadable).  He proposes ruining Zelazny’s “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth” by changing one word and adding one in every grammatical unit of every sentence without altering the synopsis — the “content.”

It’s impossible to keep from being persuaded of something by the arguments, but the conclusions I’m reaching aren’t Delany’s or Duncan’s.

A professional editor of my acquaintance who shall remain nameless was talking about a bestselling author who I don’t know (who also with the nameless, right?).  Editor said that reading Author was page by page a terrible, punishing experience full of cringe-worthy sentences and clumsy word choices, but that he couldn’t put it down.  For Editor, there are two different levels: sentence and story, and of the two story sells more books.  I suspect that’s true, but more to the point, it reminded me of where my own opinions about the role of language were set.

A personal aside.  Before I was born, my father spent two years in the Peace Corps, teaching English and some simple construction skills in Malagana, Columbia.  When I was born, my father was fluent in Spanish and taken by Central and South American literature.  He read me Enrique Anderson Imbert when I was very young, translating them on the fly.  Cortazar’s “The House Taken Over” is one of the most important ghost stories of my adolesence. I read some Marquez and Fuentes when I was growing up, and was fairly taken by both of them.  The most problematic relationship I have with the great names of Latin American Literature is Borges. I don’t actually like him much, but I keep reading him.  And more often than I like, I agree with him.

"The impoverished condition of our literature, its incapacity to attract readers, has produced a superstition about style, an inattentive reading that favors certain affectations ... This superstition is so established that no one dares admit to an absence of style in compelling works, especially the classics ... Let us take the example of Don Quixote. Confronted with the proven excellence of this novel, Spanish literary critics have suppressed the thought that its greatest (and perhaps only irrefutable) worth may be its psychological acumen, and they ascribe to it a stylistic brilliance which many readers find mysterious." -- Borges

For one thing — a minor point — I don’t think we read word by word so much as phrase by phrase.  That’s trivial.  The greater point is that I *do* think content separately from any given specific verbal expression of it.  Or, to go all perl programmer on it, there’s more than one way to do it.  The argument that I read in Borges lo these many years ago when I was all doughy and impressionable was that language changes, and yet classic stories exist.  It is possible for some folks to take genuine and unambiguous pleasure in reading Chaucer and seeing Shakespeare performed despite the fact that “It is ful fair a man to bere him evene,/For alday meeteth men at unset stevene.” and “Here’s a farmer, that hanged himself on the expectation of plenty: come in time; have napkins enow about you; here you’ll sweat for’t.” are almost meaningless to an ear accustomed to modern language.  When Delany offers to destroy “Doors” by swapping out words with the same meanings but different nuances, he’s doing what time and the natural drift of language do anyway.  Even the relatively recent classics like Dickens wouldn’t be publishable if they were turned in as fresh manuscripts today, but the stories persist.  Part of that is that they’re armored by the stories about them, but part of it is also that the level of what Editor calls storytelling exists, and at that level Macbeth is strong enough to pull us through despite the inaccessibility of the language.  And there are contemporary novels full of cringe-worthy sentences and clumsy word choices that are also strong enough on that higher level of abstraction to be compelling.

There are a lot of writers in speculative fiction who are very aware of language and of the nature of stories as words on a page.  I’m thinking of Kelly Link, for instance, who writes some of the most pyrotechnic sentences in modern literature, often in ways that absolutely defy a literal interpretation of their content.  And as soon as I’ve thought of that, I think of Carol Emshwiller and Karen Joy Fowler’s Elizabeth Complex.  These aren’t stories that are trying to create an immersive movie-like dream so much as an compelling experience of language.  There are also authors who try to have the sentences vanish and their meaning carry the story.

Used to be, I was in the camp that said the individual words are less important than the story being told.  And I still am, but I’m less militant than I was when Hal and I had dinner.

I feel a little weird writing an essay about something that seems self-evident to me.  I can only take comfort in the fact that it didn’t always seem that way.  Anyway, here’s what I’m thinking now:

You can have a story without language, but you usually don’t.  You can have sentences that don’t carry a narrative of any sort, but (at least in fiction) you usually don’t.  The vast majority of the time, sentence and story go together.  And by that I mean style and content.  They are interdependent but separable in just about the same way as a dancer’s movements and the choreography of the piece they perform.  It would be silly to say that, for instance, that a piece choreographed by Bob Fosse becomes a different dance whenever a new dancer joins the company.  It would also be silly to say that the dancers don’t matter.

A dance with great choreography can — I am assured by those who grok dance better than I do — be interesting even if the individual dancer performing it may not be top-notch (though when they’re just godawful, it may be hard to enjoy).  And a really amazing dancer can forgive pedestrian choreography.  A really great story — great content — can be compelling even when expressed in awkward style, and a beautiful style can carry a predictable plot and unconvincing characters.  And because of that, I have to believe that style and content — story and sentence — are different things.

And sure, it’s better when they’re both good.

[EDIT: Well, less an edit than a note.  If you'd be interested in what Ted Chiang and S. M. Stirling thought about this, they're commenting over at the livejournal that Lizard Brain feeds]



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Great post. Lots to consider, here.

A couple of minor notes first:

-- Your "story without language" example is a link to Shaun Tan's The Arrival, but I don't think that supports an argument about the separation of style and content; the style there is the drawing style rather than the writing style.

-- Time and language drift don't do exactly what Delany proposed doing to "Doors." The words in Canterbury Tales haven't changed. Translating Chaucer into contemporary English would be closer to what Delany's talking about.

Which brings me to my main point about the "style vs content" question. Translation is probably a good way to think about it; no one would say that a translation is the same as the original text, but neither would anyone say that they are entirely unrelated. Is there a simple way to describe what different translations have in common with each other and with the original? We can call it "content" for convenience's sake, but it's not always something that can be clearly delineated. A bad translation can, through poor word choices, lose so much of the original's spirit that it actually ceases to convey anything the author intended to say. Similarly, some works are so dependent on specific use of language that translating them becomes nearly impossible.

Good fiction often has the property that the individual word choices reinforce the larger themes of the work; consequently, the style is hard to separate from the content. But not all fiction has this property; I've enjoyed work which lacked this property, and I think a lot of enormously popular fiction lacks it. And one question which arises is, how does this property affect the work's popularity?



The words in Canterbury Tales haven't changed.

The letters on the page haven't. The meanings of the words have changed.

Part of that is the general fact that Chaucer's English is now old and/or exotic while it was normal and contemporary when it was written. Part of it is that some of the words have meanings which have shifted or been forgotten.

I don't have specific changes in mind, but here are some more recent shifts: "Words mean what they're generally believed to mean. When Charles II saw Christopher Wren's St. Paul's Cathedral for the first time, he called it "awful, pompous, and artificial." Meaning roughly: Awesome, majestic, and ingenious."

- S. M. Stirling


Edited at 2010-12-26 10:33 am (UTC)

Your "story without language" example is a link to Shaun Tan's The Arrival, but I don't think that supports an argument about the separation of style and content; the style there is the drawing style rather than the writing style.

It does refute Delany's idea that a story is told word by word (with the implication that narrative is linguistic). But yes, as long as there is a medium that presents a story, there will be the technical proficiency of the the person who is let's-call-it-encoding it.

Is there a simple way to describe what different translations have in common with each other and with the original? We can call it "content" for convenience's sake, but it's not always something that can be clearly delineated. A bad translation can, through poor word choices, lose so much of the original's spirit that it actually ceases to convey anything the author intended to say. Similarly, some works are so dependent on specific use of language that translating them becomes nearly impossible.

The way I'd say that in my dance metaphor, there are dancers so bad that even really great choreography (choreography that might be transcendent with a better dancer) is made unpleasant and awkward. I think it's a stretch to say that because (choreography|story|content) can be done badly, it doesn't exist.

You don't have a dance without a dancer, sure. You don't have a story without words or pictures or music or some kind of medium to present the story (unless it's one you're making up in your own head, which isn't really what we're talking about). That's why I think style and content are interdependent. But I also think that there's more than one way to tell a story without it being a different story and that the power of that story isn't entirely dependent on the brilliance of the style, which is why I think they're separable.

And one question which arises is, how does this property affect the work's popularity?

Popularity is a whole different can of worms, I think. Carrie Vaughn gave me a copy of a great article a while back that talked about what made a particular work popular with controlled experiments using filesharing servers with different parameters. I wish I could find it online somewhere. The upshot was that in addition to the innate excellence of a particular work popularity is driven by social dynamics that are utterly extra-textual.


The article you're referring to is probably this one:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/magazine/15wwlnidealab.t.html

I brought up popularity because it's often said (and Delany mentions this in his essay) that prose style can act as an impediment to unsophisticated readers. Once I was having dinner with Karen Fowler and she raised the question of whether there was a point at which good prose could impede a work's popularity.


Different article, but probably the same dataset.

As to Karen's question, I'm guessing it rides on what your definition of good prose is. At the level Karen's playing, I think the distinction between good and bad may be less germane than the difference between sophisticated and accessible. I can't really imagine Karen writing a bad sentence.

These aren’t stories that are trying to create an immersive movie-like dream so much as an compelling experience of language.

I like this distinction a lot. R.A. Lafferty is probably another for the compelling experience of language group-- he brought the tall tale into sf.

It's probably worth trying to pin down more about what a compelling experience of language is. It's probably partly auditory and partly kinesthetic (the feeling of the words in the mouth), but there might be echoes or hints or something of the sensory correlates of the words which don't become fully conscious but which are satisfying anyway.

Edited at 2010-12-26 10:41 am (UTC)

I enjoy Shakespeare for the language as much as for the stories. The words excite me and satisfy me. The stories interest me and satisfy me.

Daniel, you also do both. I'm surprised to hear you have every pooh-poohed the compelling effect of language, as I consider that one of your strengths.

Word choices affect meaning. Meaning is what people get from what you write. Stories are what people get from the meaning of what you write. So sometimes changing the words changes the story:

"The king died. After a long illness, the queen died."
"The king died. After a languishing illness, the queen died."
"The king died. After long suffereing, the queen did the same."
"The king dropped dead. Years later, cancer finally killed the queen."

And so on.

In addition to novels and short stories and songs I write advertising copy, an even more extreme case of words mattering in the story readers perceive.

I do think that the more sustained a literary work, the more it is constructed of other elements in addition to words. Some are abstract, such as resonances and reveals. Others are technical, like chapter breaks.

As to the popularity of writers whose work is piss poor on a word-by-word or sentence-by-sentence level, I attribute that to biology. Our brains and chemistries are all very different. Many people can read bad sentences and feel absolutely no distress, or overcome their distress with ease. For me, reading sloppy prose is painful and infuriating. I will do it, but only for a lot of money, or if I it's short and I get to fix it. During the experience I feel like a cat in a car--some neurological mechanism is set awry and I yowl. The vast majority of readers are apparently like dogs in cars--they stick their heads out the window and enjoy the breeze. Apparently.

Daniel, you also do both. I'm surprised to hear you have every pooh-poohed the compelling effect of language, as I consider that one of your strengths.

Oh dear. I didn't mean to denigrate the compelling effect of language (or, for that matter the beauty of a really graceful dancer), only to say that it's not the same thing as content. I think, ferinstance, that Kelly Link, Carol Emshwiller, and Karen Joy Fowler pretty much rock. I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I thought otherwise.

So sometimes changing the words changes the story

Ah! But that "sometimes" that's what I'm arguing for. Sometimes it does change the (story|content), but sometimes it doesn't. And if there's more than one way to do it, then the sentence and story aren't the same thing. There are a million ways to tell Little Red Riding Hood or Macbeth that leave the story utterly recognizable and intact but use different words.

For me, reading sloppy prose is painful and infuriating. I will do it, but only for a lot of money, or if I it's short and I get to fix it. During the experience I feel like a cat in a car--some neurological mechanism is set awry and I yowl. The vast majority of readers are apparently like dogs in cars--they stick their heads out the window and enjoy the breeze. Apparently.

I think there's also a price you pay for knowing. Going back to dance, I'm actually damn near dance-blind. I can enjoy even pretty lousy productions because I don't particularly know what I'm looking at. My wife studied, understands, and can appreciate fine dance. She sees flaws that I'm blissfully ignorant of. :)

Thinking about this some more, I wanted to take your example as far as I could:

"The king died. After a long illness, the queen died."

"The land lost both of its sovereigns, Him passing first through the mortal veil and Her struggling for a time with infirmity and disease. But to the point, both were lost."

Both versions use the article "the", but other than that, they've got nothing in common -- not word choice, not length, not the way they feel or sound or read, and they're recognizably the same information. The performance and presentation can change without doing violence to the information. Some presentations are better, some are so bad that anything good about the story gets obscured. But the style in which the story is told is different than the story.

Oh.

Hey, while I was writing that, I figured out better what I was reacting to. I find Delany's (and Duncan's and your) argument reductionist. And while I have a tremendous respect for the power of reductionism, I think it makes some interesting things harder to see.

You learn a lot from really getting down to the atomic word-by-word level of analysis, but the fact that you can tell a compelling story with poor style (or a boring story with amazing sentences) seems like evidence that the levels -- even though they rely on each other -- aren't explicable using each other's analytical tools.

The meaning of your second example is different, Daniel, because it places emphasis (both in the opening phrase and the closing one) on the effect of these deaths on the realm. It is the land's story, not the queen's, not the king's.

I believe myself an emergentist more than a reductionist. Story is something that emerges from words.

And I still blame biology for my sensitivity to bad writing. Training of course has exacerbated my condition, but I would not have signed on for the training had I not had an innate tendency toward it in the first place. I loved Shakespeare well before I took my first writing class.

I, too, agree that content and style are different elements, and interdependent. I like that point you made.

Content determines style to some extent: I'll write a sexual encounter using different word choices and sentence lengths than one in which the protagonist is shoplifting. But that's because style determines content also to some extent. Rhythm and reference tell a reader what's going on. And word choice, too.

In the last of my example sentence pairs above, a specific disease is named. In the second and third, grief may have been the queen's downfall; this is even more strongly implied by the word "languishing" as opposed to the word "long."

I do understand how you can believe analysis on a word-by-word level is reductionism. That's not how I experience it, though.

Thanks for talking about interesting (to me) stuff.

The meaning of your second example is different, Daniel, because it places emphasis (both in the opening phrase and the closing one) on the effect of these deaths on the realm. It is the land's story, not the queen's, not the king's.

Seems to me that we're using the word meaning differently. What I'm hearing you say is that any shift of nuance no matter how small makes a sentence with a different meaning. I have a hard time with that because I'm hearing (though I suspect you aren't saying) that the difference between "The King died. After a long illness the queen died." and "The King died. After a languishing illness the Queen died." is equivalent to the difference between "The King died. Later the Queen died." and "Dogs have never been fond of me." Which is to say, I think you're using nuance and meaning as synonyms, and I believe that they aren't. :)

Thanks for talking about interesting (to me) stuff.

It's always great seeing you, Nisi. :)

I can give an example where one word, being changed, changed the story:

One of my own, "Angel's Blood", published in Heaven Sent (ed. by Pete Crowther, DAW [US] and Signet Creed [UK] 1995).

The Big Reveal in that story came in the following sentence:

"There is war in Heaven, and God is losing."

For whatever reason (it showed up in the galleys without explanation), Crowther decided to change that to this:

"There is war in Heaven, and the angels are losing."

I think that both versions are effective stories. But they're not the same story.

-- Bruce Arthurs

I hope I wasn't arguing that you can't change meaning by changing words so much as that you don't *always* do it.

Delany cites an example in the essay where one word was cut from a story of his and utterly changed the story. In that case, someone asked a character whether she'd killed someone, and her answer ("Yes.") was dropped.

Twas a fine evening indeed :)

Ah, yes, I remember it well. :)

My own position is probably slightly changed since then too, actually. I think it's undeniable that many people don't read word-by-word. For sure, there's an in-yer-head sub-vocalising that us sentence freaks carry on, but most of us learn to mute the articulation as a pattern of imagined sounds when we learn to read fluently, right? So maybe we only later develop an ear for the patterning as we get more into literature that foregrounds that dynamics. Or not, indeed. Many/most readers you talk to seem to be parsing text in chunks, constructing a notional story from the general import.

I mean, I've had a similar experience to your Editor/Author story with a writer mate who found Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code an utterly compelling pageturner despite the excruciatingly bollocksed-up writing. As they described it, they clicked into an approach that was sort of skimming/scanning the text, going from benchmark to benchmark, constructing the narrative quite freely from the text. Like, I suppose you might compare a paragraph to a panel in a storyboard; for some, that's all they need to engage their imagination and shoot the actual movie in their head. And as much as that leads to writing I find half-arsed, it's kind of a more active participation on the reader's part. Those popular books with godawful prose are like karaoke versions of songs, maybe; the writer's providing the melody and the lyrics, but the pleasure of the experience for the reader lies in translating that to their own imaginative performance.

That would go some way to explaining how sophisticated writing can serve as a barrier. It defines the performance, so to speak, at a level some readers don't want it defined, as if the lyrics on a karaoke screen were marked up with every note, every breath, every catch in your throat, every nuance of voicing. For a reader with an inner ear attuned to prose dynamics that becomes the very point of it: your imagination constructs the song *sung*; it's like hearing the singer/songwriter give their personal rendition, an experience that can be utter rapture. But if the rapture you're looking for is that experience of belting it out yourself, the last thing you want is a vocal track on the karaoke machine sung by someone whose performance is way too complex for you to keep up with.

With that in mind, I guess I'd now look at "story" as something like "song" -- not unlike your dance metaphor. So, yes, as you can point to a structural schema of basic melody and lyrics that remains the same across different versions of a song -- and is indeed referred to as *the song* -- it seems only fair to talk of the basic structural schema of a narrative as *the story*. Insisting that story can't be abstracted from the process taking place in the reader's head would be at odds with common usage -- like saying the melody and lyrics are only a song as and when they're actually being sung. These days, I'd tend to use "narrative" as the label for that process-oriented view of fiction.

But I still find myself sticking over the "content" metaphor, the way it casts the articulation as a carrier-vessel for this metaphoric substance, story. What we're dealing with is a broad structural schema coded into the narrative in the writing and emergent from it in the reading, yes? But to me that makes "story" essentially a gloss on the narrative, a summary encapsulation of what character, plot and theme add up to, in vaguest terms. The abstract schemas that readers each individually construct in reading the narrative, none of which will perfectly reflect the abstract schema that the writer had in mind as they were constructing the narrative -- these are... the import of import.

I mean, word by word or phrase by phrase, (or image by image, as in the graphic novel example,) the articulation we're reading is functioning as a series of imports in our imaginations, of denotations and connotations. However we engage with it, we're ultimately processing that stream of imports into a secondary import coded into their relationships, the way they feedback on themselves as we read on -- constructing the story as an ongoing encapsulation of the narrative. But given that's a notional effect of a (series of) notional effect(s), it just seems arse-backwards to me to cast that as "substance" when the only substance we're really dealing with is words.

So, "words are the only substance" is still something of a mantra for me when the question of prose style versus "content" comes up, but the way I'd put it now is that changing just a word or phrase will change the *narrative*, because even synonyms have different connotations -- meaning a different import at that point in the stream, and all manner of potential ramifications arising from that. But in so far as the narrative is abstractable to story, those changes may be no more than subtle nuances not wholly relevant on that broad schematic level.

"You learn a lot from really getting down to the atomic word-by-word level of analysis, but the fact that you can tell a compelling story with poor style (or a boring story with amazing sentences) seems like evidence that the levels -- even though they rely on each other -- aren't explicable using each other's analytical tools."

I don't know, Daniel, I doesn't seem to me to be a very good piece of evidence. I mean, who is that reader that you poor-style story is compelling to? Who is that reader that perceives your amazingly-written story boring? Personally, I haven't found any story I've read compelling, if it wasn't written well. Also, is it my lack of skill in interpreting the finer points of arguments in English (not my first language), or do you to some extent equate "style" with "fancy sentences" in the above quotation?

I'd say that to me "story", in the sense Delany takes it in "About 5,750 Words", consists of the sum of emotional and intellectual import that the events/characters/setting in it carry, not the events/characters/setting themselves, which, I agree, could be summed up the same way if they are the same, even if the story is told in a million different ways.

In literature's centripetal aspect, words point to one another, create patterns close to these of music, aimed at creating meaning - emotional or intellectual. In its centrifugal aspect, words point to entities in the real world - people, events, settings, aimed at facilitating the centripetal meaning, by providing a framework for interpretation. In that sense, the things many people think of as "content" is actually the most superficial level, the starting point for interpretation.

You are *not* led through words into the realm of people/places/stuff happening and then into the realm of meaning. You are lead through the realm of people/places/stuff happening into the realm of the musical interrelations between words, and then into the realm of meaning. At least that's how it is for me.

"Content" (events/characters/setting) is not something whose vessel "style" is. That "content" is the vessel of "style"'s effects. At least in prose (or more particularly, in narrative prose).

I said above that I would agree a synopsis of the events/characters/settings may be the same no matter how the story's told. But that's fruitless. To me, any impression of a story that carries any value whatsoever, contains the reader's emotional and intellectual reaction to that referential framework (places/people/stuff happening). And that reaction is governed entirely by the succession of words on the page.



For example, that beginning:

"He didn't know who he was when she met him—well, not many people did. He was in the high orchard doing something under a pear tree. The land smelled of late summer and wind—bronze, it smelled bronze.
He looked up at a compact girl in her mid-twenties, at a fearless face and eyes the same color as her hair, which was extraordinary because her hair was red-gold. She looked down at a leather-skinned man in his forties, at a gold-leaf electroscope in his hand, and felt she was an intruder."

Apart from the synaesthetic (the mixing of senses, in plain English) detail of the bronze-smelling land, the language doesn't consist of "fancy sentences". But the end-of-summer/beginning-of-fall color palette of the passage I find extraordinary - starting with the pear tree (yellow-brown); then the word "bronze" (light-brownish); then the red-gold eyes and hair, the leather-skinned man (I guess a sort of tan color), the gold-leaf electroscope (bright golden yellow) and the possible associative link between the gold-leaves and the pear-tree.
What's more extraordinary is the way this harmonious picture contrasts with the last part of the last sentence - "...and felt she was an intruder". According to the way I imagine the whole thing, she seems the exact opposite: an integral part of the color-scheme of the picture. She may feel she is an intruder but I felt she was exactly where she should be.

If we take this to the lowest common-denominator of "content", we have a man and a woman standing before one another in an orchard at the end of summer. She could have been green-eyed and black-haired, he could have been weathered, but not leather-skinned, the land could have smelled hot or earthy or something of the sort. It wouldn't have changed anything about "story", the way most people see it.

But I suppose all of the above is overstating a point in favor of what Hal describes as the kind of reader that does NOT see the words on the page as mere storyboard-material. But his distinction to me points in the right direction - to the reader, not the writer.

A writer may choose to write in a manner that would obscure the effect of the example above to everyone but a strange dude like me, for instance. Or he may choose to consciously and overtly try and create a dense web of associations, both imagistic and purely abstract, in the mind of the reader. It doesn't matter. To me it's an undeniable truth that different words create distinctly different emotional/intellectual responses in a reader's mind, even if they describe the same referential complex of events/people/places. And to me these responses are the content of a story.

I fear I sound horrendously overblown, sorry about that...

Emo

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