Recently we've got pretty clever with telling stories like setting the plot out of time, setting the plot in space,
Disregarding the plot entirely...
But I don't think much has changed about what we like in a story for all of our postmodern yada-yada.
Stories basically still just come down to:
"Does characters what we like escape fron this ungood situation?
I hope they don't get murderized or nothing".
"Does characters what we like love each other and want to make out and stuff?"
"Is what we thought the story was the real story?
Or is there a twist with the robot man or a dubious soap salesman at some point."
And while that's all well and gravy I'm going to propose a little theory of everything,
About why we like stories when we like them,
And why we really don't, when we don't.
And it's called Feelings, Pictures/Context and Ideas,
And it works like this:
If a movie or a book or whatever only cares about feelings
Then it's either really crap young adult fiction or daytime television.
We get that the characters have emotions,
We just don't really care because we don't understand where they are in their lives, or what's going on,
And they don't propose anything new.
If a movie or a book only cares about pictures or context, well, then you get a story
that's obsessed with the weather, or the cinematography,
Or what the moon looks like and everyone knows what the fucking moon looks like.
If a movie or a book only cares about ideas that's great, but it's usually boring a shit,
And you get unrelatable science fiction or art movies where people just vomit their opinions about things like no one does in real life... ever,
Except narcissistic pricks like, I don't know, youtubers... for example.
But if you properly pickle that pineapple and you include all three, you get a Classic,
when a writer or a director gets feelings, pictures and ideas working properly together,
We can forgive basically everything else.
I think that's why you can still watch "Citizen Kane" or "Twelve Angry Men"
Or even "Moby Dick", or "Shakespeare" decades or centuries later, and they're still brilliant.
They're addressing feelings we have today, about death, or love, or whales, or cry-baby Danish princes.
They're using interesting contexts like huge castles or the ocean,
And they're throwing us ideas we don't think about that much on a daily basis:
"Should you be or not be?"
"What's the big deal with movies Willy anyway?"
Further example... Everyone bangs on about the Empire Strikes Back being a superior Star Wars movie blah blah,
And that's probably because it definitely is, but if we apply the old feelings, pictures, and ideas model to it,
I think it's pretty clear why it was indeed amazing.
Well, there's certainly feelings: Everyone's in a pinch, everything shit, Darth Vader wants everyone dead.
There's interesting pictures: There's the pretty snowy bits, and a spacey bits, and the cloudy bits.
And there are lots of ideas: About loyalty, and sacrifice, and making out with members of your own family.
To be even simpler about this, stories just have to be about someone we understand,
Set somewhere vaguely interesting, and propose something,
Anything even remotely new that we haven't thought about too much before.
They are also required to make sense. The main character can then be a robot,
or a drug-addled horse or a personified teddy bear...
Haha, what a story, Mark.
For more popular examples of feelings, pictures, and ideas done perfectly,
There is the "Blink" episode of "Doctor Who" with all the terrifying garden features,
The entire first season of "Mindhunter", the Christmas episode of "Black Mirror",
"The Great Gatsby", "Cloud Atlas" (The book, that is.), "Catch-22", "To Kill a Mockingbird",
Original fucking "Bioshock" and "Wild Tales".
That's us, the storytelling ape. Sure we stopped pooping in the woods and huffing volcano vapor...
Well, maybe you did, but not too much has changed with human hardware, with the brain.
We still seem to be telling basically the same stories our ancestors enjoyed, and most of them center around
Romance, power and Chelsea robot people. Primal stuff... Right?... Yeah, okay.
Why? Because this is our condition, still, balancing between being animals and gods.
We care about base stuff, but we want a bit of clever extend, too.
We evolved in tribes, we love gossip and the feelies.
We evolved in nature, we liked scenery and context.
We also evolved the Lamborghini of brain areas, the Neocortex.
So we seem to be really into ideas like ethics, and politics, and putting watches up your bottom.
We're designed to feel stuff, see stuff, and think stuff.
Stories seem to work when they mimic those basic needs, and more than that,
Telling stories is a fundamental human activity, I reckon.
And if you needed to kick up the arse to make your own stuff, I will attempt to provide it... now.
I doubt you know much about who your great-great-great grandparents were.
I certainly don't know anything about mine, and truth be told it's very unlikely that your
Great-great-great grandchildren will know much about you.
But one day our distant descendants will probably get curious about who we were and what we thought about the world,
And they'll look back at the stories we're telling now.
To our literature, and our movies, and our video games, and our TV, and everything else.
That's how we build time capsules. Now to be clear, I'm not saying all our media is great,
But Hot Diggity we're making some good stuff at the moment,
And Hot Diggity I'm sure lots of it will survive for a long time after we're gone.
And the cool thing is that there's really not much stopping any of us from making our own stuff,
In one form or another. Not necessarily to be immortalized,
But just to have set a true thing about where we are now, because the world won't look like this forever,
And we won't be here forever.
Humans are transient, stories are eternal, or as eternal as will be getting anytime soon.
It's a little nod to future generations.
Hey, we were here. We felt stuff. We saw stuff. We thought stuff.
Love and kisses in the 21st century. And we also saw the first launch of the Falcon Heavy so fuck you.
It's debatable whether cryogenics or mind uploading will take off in our lifetimes,
We're probably not going to be the first immortal generation.
But if you can say a true thing about how we feel about the world right now,
And what it looks like and what we think about it, there is every chance that that will stick around.
Happy making things, mother lovers.
All the best.