Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Authorial influence and fiat.

The goal of this blog has been, and will be, to explore believability. This means that it looks at ways that a fictional world can be made more "real", in the sense that it's tangible and logical to the audience. However, there is one major interfering factor when it comes to the issue of authorship. No matter how logically or illogically a story is developed, there is one key rule that absolutely cannot be forgotten: what the writer says happens is what happens. It doesn't matter how little sense it makes, or how much: if there is logic, it is because the writer has arranged the story in a way that things make sense. If there isn't, it's because they didn't bother to arrange the story in such a way. There is no actual system of logic in play: it's all set up by the writer, regardless of the end result. Of course, the audience is free to make their own conclusions about the morals and lessons taught by the events, but the events themselves are orchestrated entirely by the author.

All of the updates on this blog - past and future - have the goal of making it so that the author has more tools at their disposal to create the illusion of reality. This is done to make that illusion more tangible and palpable so that the audience can maintain their suspension of disbelief. The less things that draw their attention to the fictitious nature of the enterprise, the less likely that this major issue (the fact that it is fiction, and hence it's all made up anyways) will be breached. But this is an optional objective - there are many writers more concerned with telling "the story they want" than worrying about consistency or logic. Can you stop them? Of course not. It's their story. If Karen Traviss (pictured left) wants to say that all Mandalorians are super-awesome warriors who are way better than every Jedi, then technically she's right - insomuch as she's making it all up anyways, and one made-up thing is just as true as another.

A writer is essentially on their own in terms of logic. There is no system governing what they can and cannot write, except in a meta-sense (censors, legal issues, etcetera). If they want something to happen, it is going to happen. This brings us to the issue of fiat (Latin for "let it be done"), a general term referring to things like deus ex machina or anything where something happens because "the author wills it". This is most obvious when there is a logical leap or gap and it's not bridged by anything other than the author saying it happened. However, if we examine the initial statement, then every single thing that happens in a story is fiat. The difference is separating the fiat that's logical from the fiat that's not - what's believable and what's implausible.

In an earlier post I compared the idea of enemies being plausible threats and/or beings in their own right to enemies being static non-entities who exist to be trampled by the hero. As you might guess, both things in this case come down to fiat: will the author portray it plausibly, or will they just go the easy route and make all the enemies stand still to get blown up? In the end, it comes down to how the author wants to show it. You can talk about plausibility and believability all you want, but the actual events are only influenced by how the author chooses to depict things.


No example shows this more clearly, in my mind, than Berserk's hundred-man battle. This is combat that is simultaneously difficult and trivial. Both of the protagonists have to block enemy strikes and counter in weak spots, rather than just blasting through them with no effort. There's a real effort to show that they're outnumbered, they're getting tired, and they're on their last legs. But at the same time, the enemies never bring their superior numbers to bear in a logical way, the protagonists get away with a lot of stuff that they shouldn't (at one point Guts waves his cape and this is enough to somehow knock crossbow bolts away), and ultimately the moral of the story is "The good guys kill a lot of guys who attack in a way that allows the good guys to kill them". The consistency of the situation is there for atmosphere, rather than to shape events.

This example is important to me because there's an attempt to have a logical, grounded system for the whole affair, but ultimately it comes down to "we need the good guys to survive and beat the odds, and the bad guys to all die messily". The plausibility of the scene is a speed bump on the road to Guts winning. There's a similar feel around the series "Gundam: 08th MS Team". The three main pilots are meant to be fairly normal, but none of them die even when the odds are against them. This is a good clip to illustrate what I mean: Shiro is a normal human who is forced to resort to a desperate ambush against his opponents - something that wouldn't happen in any of the other series - but at the same time he dodges gunfire from a mech, and then later he shoots down some tiny anti-personnel mines. He's superhuman, but not; he's really whatever the story needs him to be in order to survive. The "realism" of the show is part of the illusion, but in actuality he's going to win no matter what it takes.

This brings us to another key issue: the capabilities of a character will always be whatever they need to be. I touched on this briefly when discussing PvP/PvE, but here's the bottom line: measuring strength is always going to be ridiculous because the strength of a character is derived solely from the writer. If I write a story where I say "this character is a normal human but he can eat the sun", should you be impressed with this character? Would you be drawn to learn more about him and how his totally insane logical inconsistencies can exist? Well, there's no logic behind it. He can eat the sun because I, the author, said he can. That's it.

Now let's compare this to some actual shows and movies. I've touched on the later Gundam series before, but they really are a pretty good example because they rely on the audience being impressed by "this mech is powerful". What is there to be in awe of? The weapon is powerful because the designer made it powerful. Without context or drama, what is that "power" appealing to? Even with that one clip, they won't leave well enough alone and power it up even more. What does this accomplish? There's no tactile or experience-based viewpoint to actually approach the gun from, so it might as well be a sentence reading "this gun can blow up everything". Its power exists in a vacuum. Giant mecha can do everything from destroy an army to throw a galaxy like a shuriken, and what does it mean? It means that the writer said "and then the giant mecha threw the galaxy like a shuriken" - no more, no less.

This problem can almost be made worse if there's an attempt to connect to some sort of realism (although arguably all things try to appeal to realism at some level - more about this in a future update). For example, in the game "Halo: ODST", the player takes the role of an Orbital Drop Ship Trooper (essentially a futuristic paratrooper). The difference between normal Halo games and ODST is meant to be justified by the fact that in most Halo games you play as a shield-equipped super-soldier, whereas in ODST you are a normal guy. However, the grand list of things that changes about the game is this: you can no longer dual wield. Your health regenerates, your movement is light and quick, your guns are bolted to your frame rather than swinging wildly around, and you can punch through tanks. The aspect of "being normal" has absolutely no connection to the gameplay because it all exists as author fiat, and "author fiat" only wanted the player to be an ODST so they could expand on an element they thought was cool. The ODST, as a soldier, is exactly as strong as the game needs him to be. And yet there is a trope praising such characters on the basis of "it's more impressive because they don't have any powers", forgetting that the only power they need is the power of "the author wants me to win". Nothing else matters except that.


However, there is one method of storytelling that actually has the potential to overcome this hurdle: luck-based or skill-based gaming with a solid rule system to ensure fairness. This primarily takes the form of RPGs, but actual gameplay in videogames may also count. Games in general have a few distinct traits that can free them of the quagmire of authorial directorship:


1: The Game System Provides The Rules. One of the issues with authorship is the issue of consistency: an attack might not be enough to harm an enemy in one scene, but it is in another. The consistency of the story is up to the author to maintain, and if they want to ignore it there's nothing that can be done. Games, on the other hand, establish a solid system, and with the exception of cutscenes generally try to maintain that system at all times. If a character is low level, they're going to have these capabilities. If they level up, their capabilities will improve. In this way, the playing field can be kept consistent, if not necessarily level. A character will consistently be the same strength unless they take an action in-universe to change it.

An issue related to this is "real logic" versus "game logic" - that is to say, a game meant to represent some sort of "reality" (humans are humans, physics are physics) inaccurately representing that reality. One could also point to "higher-level" stuff, which suffers from the same "higher numbers = better than" mentality seen in DBZ or any other high-powered anime series. The difference here, to me, is that there's a concrete method of improvement and a concrete level of power. If you want to be high level, you have to earn your way there. If you're a low-level person and you attack a high-level person, you're probably going to lose. There's no arbitrary "well he's tougher than me in every way but I'm a good guy so I win" stuff unless, say, the player rolls a critical hit. This leads into the second point.


2: Events Change Based On Luck or Skill. Earlier with regards to Berserk, I mentioned that, in essence, the way combat was portrayed was unimportant because the end result had to be "Guts wins". In a game, it can all come down to either a roll of the dice (for most role-playing games) or the player's capabilities (for more direct action games). The gaming comic Knights of the Dinner Table actually has a lot of characters dying and campaigns failing as the result of bad rolls and bad decisions, which is perfectly logical and happens all the time in real D&D campaigns. The success or failure of the characters actually has a lasting impression, and this makes it far more tense because the story might actually change. You don't just get a do-over, you could totally screw up and all your characters could die and that's it, the story is over for them.

It's important to note, however, that the way an adventure is tailored and challenges are shown affects this. Oftentimes, encounters are "balanced" to provide an optimal combat threat. I don't support this method; I prefer a system where enemies are whatever type it would make sense for that area, and it's up to the players to analyze their chances. If they're out in the woods and they hear a hill giant approaching, it should be up to them to do something about it - either take it head-on (if they're confident), set a trap, run away, or try to hide. If the encounter's balanced, there's no real reason to do anything other than "fight normally"; if it's unbalanced, the players have to think on their feet and react to the monster as an event, rather than an obstacle. A hard encounter should be overcome with guile and cunning, instead of just not happening until the party's ready for it.


3: The Players Make Decisions And Direct The Course Of Their Characters' Actions. This is the point that's least universal - there are plenty of railroading DMs who want to put their players through "my story", and far more videogames that do the same thing. Still, in most RPGs the onus of activity lies with the players, often to the detriment of the DM who has to keep up with their pace. This freedom is shared with a lot of wide-open sandbox games, although video games are inherently limited by things like resources and design.

The importance of this freedom is that it makes the story much more malleable: it's the result of a logical (well, not always logical, but at least player-decided) train of thought leading to a rule-moderated conclusion based on planning, strategy, and luck. The more that the DM or developers say "no you can't do that", the less it's going to feel like the player has any influence on what's happening. In this case, the DM and developers represent "fiat": you can't do that because I said you can't, deal with it. To be a truly interactive, developing story, these restrictions must be minimized.

RPGs are naturally equipped to deal with this - unlike a computer, a human DM can adapt new material "on the fly" (or at least relatively quickly) based on consulting rules and stats in the book. If the players want to hire mercenaries, the books will probably have rules and tables for that. If the players want to build a castle, the books will probably have rules and tables for that. In fact, this aspect is why I personally prefer AD&D to newer editions - the lighter, less-intensive combat system means there's more time devoted to establishing background data and materials for the DM to call upon.

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I appreciate the stories generated by pen-and-paper RPGs and sandbox games because they're naturally occurring; a system was established, and the players let events happen. To me, it's much more of a "big deal" to hear about an expedition that nearly failed but managed to survive at the last second, or an X-COM recruit who managed to get off that lucky shot. These stories are more real to me because they operate under similar rules to reality, most importantly "success isn't guaranteed". In contrast, authored stories are, well, authored: what the author says happens, happens. If they're a good author, I'll be drawn in enough that it's not predictable and I can try to figure out what's going to happen, but in essence it comes down to what the author wanted to happen.

There's a term in fandom that I think is fairly important for this: in a series where many characters die, it is the author who "kills their characters". Even if a show or book or movie depicts war in an accurate sense, the characters who died are, in fact, killed by the author, because it is the author's decision whether they live or die. In the last, climactic book of the Harry Potter series, many characters died - but those characters lived and died because J.K. Rowling wrote them living or dying. She could have spared any one of them, and every one that died did so because she desired it to happen. Gundam director Yoshiyuki Tomino (pictured left) has actually been criticized for making series where characters are killed off frequently, despite the fact that most of these series are war-oriented. Structured rules take the decision out of the "author's" hands by making it up to the dice. War is fatal, and it may end up being random whether you live or die - but there's nothing "random" about an author, because the author's role is to govern the story, and they have absolute control over every aspect of it.

This is the base concept of what I'm trying to get at: no matter what, it's all going to come down to the author's decision. An author can kill characters off to try to achieve the "randomness" of war, and logically their choice will be justified, but essentially the characters who live and die are still chosen by the author. This is why internal consistency is so important: because the decision an author makes should be backed up by logic for the audience to become invested in them. Without internal consistency, each decision sits alone in a void, and the audience is essentially listening to a dictated list of events without any connection to why any of it is happening. The more rules the author abides by, the more "fair" their decisions will seem.

I constantly bring up Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan on this blog for various reasons, and to me there is one major difference between them: Band of Brothers is based on true events, and Saving Private Ryan is not. When a character dies in Band of Brothers, it is because it actually happened based on a logical system of events in real life. When a character dies in Saving Private Ryan, it is because the script called for them to die. Even if the death is done well and feels natural, it's going to be underscored by the fact that the death happened as part of the script, not "naturally". Perhaps, then, scripts should be built off of role-playing sessions? It's worth a gamble.

11 comments:

  1. I realize that this is long after you posted this, but I just read it. I generally agree with you, but some authors do have elements of randomness in their fiction and do not make every decision. I know Philip Dick wrote at least one story using the I Ching to guide its writing. Similarly, collective storytelling, such as happens in RPG's, in fiction can yield interesting results where no one author has complete control.

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  2. Is their any way a writer can avert this then? Other than killing the lead, which could end the story?

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  3. My comment is also late, but I just had to address some of this for anyone who is confused...

    Am I missing something? If I'm wrong, my apologies, but I'm reading this like... being an author equals controlling a story, controlling a story equals phony realities, and phony realities equal bad writing. Although there is truth in this somewhere, the bulk of it is misguided.

    Firstly, believability is one of the most important tools in storytelling. But at the end of the day, it's just that; a tool. The highest priority in storytelling is meaning. And meaning in a story must be authored; orchestrated; manufactured. Why? Because meaning is derived from a *pattern*, not a coincidence.

    Is real life made of chaos? Who knows. Is real life made of patterns? Who knows. But we do know that meaning in a story is the result of a pattern. For whatever reason, we measure a story's power by its meaning, and measure its meaning by the effectiveness of its patterns. "The character is committing action A and that is symbolic of X. Now he's committing action B, also symbolic of X. Holy crap, is he really going to commit action Z, also symbolic of X? I've learned a lot about X from this story."

    Now, as an author designs a pattern with meaning, what must be avoided is *contrivance*, which this article hits on. One mustn't bend the realism for the sake of the plot. That's phony. However, the idea that by merely authoring events in the first place, the story's reality is counterfeit? While correct in some technical sense, it's an incredibly cynical view of storytelling. Believability is used to help assist with the illusion of credible reality, but really only to assist with the impact of priority one: meaning.

    Recreating reality with absolute accuracy is impossible. Under that logic, compromise has already been made. Recreating reality "as close as possible to absolute accuracy" is possible, but if it compromises a story's meaning, then what use is it to have a simulation of life that says nothing insightful except what a reader may project onto it haphazardly, and only after poring through tens of thousands of likely meaningless pages derived from chance instead of design. In favor of meaning, lines must be drawn. Compromises must be made.

    Consider the story of the ugly duckling. Told with rigid adherence to believability over storytelling/meaning, it would yield this: There once was an ugly duckling. Excluded by the other ducklings, this little duckling wandered aimlessly and ate bread. Unbeknownst to the duckling, he was actually a beautiful swan. He never learned this because he has an animal brain incapable of a revelation like this. Later he died. The end.

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    1. "Am I missing something?"

      Yes. You are missing a sense of purpose. Your view of what storytelling is "for" seems pretty shallow.

      "For whatever reason, we measure a story's power by its meaning, and measure its meaning by the effectiveness of its patterns"

      This is why I say it's "shallow". Because you understand what people want out of storytelling ("I want to feel like I'm learning things even when I'm not") but you don't want to ask WHY they do that. You don't want to examine anything deeper besides the immediate sensations and feelings that the work produces. You don't want to contextualize them, you just want to accept them.

      Now, I'm assuming you haven't read the rest of my articles (I cannot blame you, there are a lot), so I'll give you a cliffs note version: I don't think metaphors in stories are good or important. I think they're usually trite attempts to make the audience think they've learned something even when they haven't. THAT is the concept you are attempting to sway me with.

      I mean, you realize The Ugly Duckling is a fable for children, right? It's not meant to be an IN-DEPTH STORY with REALISTIC CHARACTERS, it's meant to be a parable specifically designed to teach children a lesson. That's part one. Part TWO is the fact that the lesson in the ugly duckling is pretty bad. I mean, what's it teaching? Oh, you're ugly now, but someday you won't be ugly, and then you'll have worth! And you may think that's nitpicking, but it's not - it's the ENTIRE POINT of the story. That is what "metaphors" do, and that's why I don't really like them. Metaphors convince people of things using made-up examples; it doesn't really matter what the conclusion is, as long as it's told convincingly. It's basically the opposite of actually EDUCATING people. It is making people MORE IGNORANT because it is leading them to conclusions without having to base it on anything real or credible. It's propaganda in a longer, more drawn-out format.

      And if that's what you think storytelling should aspire to, hey, that's pretty shitty, dude. Me, I like stories to be engaging and surprising and full of depth. That's just me.

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  4. If your blog aims to educate commenters like me, then I'd suggest the "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" adage. A dialogue could be much more enlightening than an internet argument. If not for you, then for me and your readers. So, I'll ignore the condescension and address the points.

    About my position... I don't think it can be said that I'm missing "the sense of purpose." I made what I believe the purpose to be quite clear: meaning through metaphor. I think it would be more accurate to say you disagree with my submitted purpose. I believe and have learned that storytelling had metaphor at its core and that this was more of a universal understanding. I apologize.

    About metaphor... My definition of "metaphor as a story's purpose" is an external thing representing meaning. My definition of meaning is a rush of insight, those aforementioned "immediate feelings." But not just feelings. Also, an observable quality of life that can be analyzed and somewhat related to real life as a valuable lesson. This is the internal aspect of metaphor. It is generated by the external aspect. My definition of the external aspect is a character in a setting who is part of an event.

    About metaphor VS education... If I understand correctly, you're suggesting that metaphors don't work because they create a context out of thin air that seems true, but does not have enough of a connection to actual reality for it to really BE true, effectively making naive viewers believe false, albeit "powerful" messages. Yes?

    Firstly, they're not created out of thin air, and they're not created without a connection to reality. Nothing is "created." "There is nothing new under the sun." I'm once again making the presumption you agree with an adage, I apologize if not. It is a powerful statement. We do not create things. We borrow observable things. Everyone knows that a hug is a metaphor for affection (unless it's not, of course). So, metaphors, while in a way they are disconnected from the truths of reality, they also OVERLAP truths of reality. I'm suggesting that they miss the mark on trivial details (like whether a swan can talk), but they strike the mark on crucial details (this swan turns out to be beautiful). How can you tell the difference between a trivial detail and a crucial detail? It's relative. The story makes those decisions, and we go with it.

    Which leads me to my next point. A false message is only false under a certain point of view. Life is such an omnipresent thing that, for all intents and purposes, everything may as well be true, relatively. This is where we may have another fundamental disagreement, which is fine. I'm saying storytelling uses metaphors to illuminate those shocking truths that never seemed true before. But they ARE true. You may call them false, I call them true.

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  5. Take murder. Cold-blooded murder is wrong. But a story may illuminate a truth in which it FEELS right (those immediate feelings). It may do so with a motivation such as love. Now, I'm arguing that a story such as this is preaching truth. Does that mean I will murder in cold blood for love? No. Because it's a metaphor that illuminates the truth of a core principle, love. Murder is a metaphor. It is not to be taken LITERALLY. It is an expression. Expression shines when we do something similar to exaggerating. It's called dramatizing.

    So, you may not like metaphors because you're looking for literal instructions from something meant to be figurative. If your argument is that it IS meant to be literal, then why does it need to be a "story"? "Story," in my mind, immediately implies dramatization, and thus expression, and thus metaphor. If the core purpose is merely education (literal absorption of information), then an essay seems much more appropriate. A "story" meant solely for literal education seems like a hollow shell of "entertainment" masked around a didactic essay. A story in the sense I have come to understand focuses on uplifting a value through expression. This is to be felt AND analyzed. But NOT applied to your life values literally.

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  6. About the ugly duckling... First of all, I picked this example, because, once again, I presumed everybody could appreciate it. I apologize again. It was meant to be used as a simplistic example to illustrate my point. An example that demonstrated a clear set of principles that could be applied in some way to ALL types of stories. Not just complicated stories, or children's stories, etc. And anyway, you seem to think that children's stories are fodder. The lessons/values and the narratives used as a vehicle may be simplistic in one way, but take "golden-age" Disney movies and it should be clear that they can be profound nonetheless. Simplistic does not equal "bad." The blues isn't "worse" than classical music. Pacman isn't "worse" than the most celebrated RPG.

    Our fundamental disagreements resonate on this issue. An "in-depth story" means what? Lots of details? "Realistic characters" I assume means people, rather than talking animals. Once again, this is expressive, not literal. You say it's a parable like that's a bad thing. And actually, no, this one wasn't necessarily designed for children.

    "Oh, you're ugly now, but someday you won't be ugly, and then you'll have worth!" No, I do not think this is nitpicking, I think this is a gross misunderstanding of the metaphor at work. This story isn't about "not having worth, and then having worth." If you follow the telling, you'd see that it's about the irony of realizing that being an outcast is actually okay, or even a good thing. It demonstrates a world in which the protagonist does not fit in (shallow differences, verbal bullying), laments its genetic differences, and then chooses suicide via being torn apart by an elite group he also believed would not accept him (swans). As it turns out, he is a swan. You seem to be implying that deus ex machina is involved by suggesting something like, "he wasn't beautiful, then he was turned beautiful." But rather, it is a very short story illustrating the irony of lamenting something that was your saving grace all along, specifically, being an outcast.

    Yes, you could arguably call this a children's story (even though factually it wasn't necessarily conceived that way). But nonetheless, through expression and some talking animals, Andersen illustrated the entire life story of many successful CEO's, entertainers, and artists. It may not hold relevance to you, but to some who were absolutely tortured throughout schooling and then went on to great success, it might be the most meaningful thing on the planet, while still being simplistic.

    I also apologize for not being concise, but those are all of my points. On the contrary, I'm new to your site, but have read a handful of your articles. I find them very helpful, but disagreed on some points here, that's all. I had not read the metaphor ones.

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    1. It seems like your goal is to overwhelm me by simply having so many entangled, meandering arguments that I cannot possibly address them all. Unfortunately for you, I am far more experienced with this kind of argument than I'd like to be.

      1) "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar" is objectively not true in real life - they've done studies on it. Also, flies eat shit. Do you really want to compare yourself to that? See, this is the kind of thing that you get when you rely on metaphors; your cliche adage fell apart as soon as the slightest pressure was applied to it. You don't actually know about reality.

      2) "Everyone knows a hug is a metaphor for affection" - I pulled this sentence out of your giant paragraphs because I think it's getting to the fundamental problem of your ideas. A hug is a SIGNIFIER or INDICATOR of affection. It is not a METAPHOR. You hug someone to SHOW affection, not to "represent" it. If that's what you think a metaphor is, no wonder you're having trouble defending the concept.

      3) "A false message is only false under a certain point of view"? What a trite and pointless thing to say. I suppose we can shut all the schools and universities down now that you've fundamentally destroyed the basic concept of education. In any case, even addressing what you MEANT to say (as opposed to the implications of your statement), you're still wrong. Some things aren't true. Some viewpoints aren't based on reality. Some facts are real, and some facts are not. The idea that EVERY viewpoint should be treated the same is childish and unproductive. What you're trying to convince me of is that metaphors are good BECAUSE they can sway people regardless of facts - and if you think that's "good", I've got a whole stack of Nazi propaganda for you to sort through.

      4) "Simplistic does not equal "bad."" But it does equal "dumb", "useless", and "poorly thought-out". This ties into your awful "all viewpoints are valid" argument. Some things just aren't true. If you spend your life learning from video games and children's movies, you are going to believe a SHITLOAD of things that aren't true. Education and ignorance are real concepts, and if your only defense is "they're not really", you're gonna have a bad time.

      5) " If you follow the telling, you'd see that it's about the irony of realizing that being an outcast is actually okay, or even a good thing." ...which it does by creating an incredibly contrived and unlikely situation that cannot be applied to real people. The Ugly Duckling does not EARN anything, he does not BETTER HIMSELF, he does not IMPROVE HIMSELF. He just happened to be a Swan all along. If he wasn't really a Swan - if he was just an Ugly Duckling - then he would have zero worth. It's like Harry Potter secretly being a Wizard his whole life - if he wasn't a Wizard, he would have just spent the rest of his days living in a closet. His value is purely based on his birth, not his actions.

      You're trying to take a valuable life lesson from a centuries-old children's story and your only possible defense of the story in question is that if you INTERPRET it right, it can teach you a lesson that MIGHT be valuable - if you're approaching it from a certain point of view. Personally, I'd just call that "useless" and try to learn from something with actual backing to it.

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  7. Once again, you've chosen to be condescending and rude rather than display any tact. Unfortunate.

    1. This is your problem. Here is a simple metaphor that you find ridiculous because you interpret it literally on every level. You miss the point of metaphors entirely. I already explained above, but I'll repeat. Metaphors ignore the mark on certain trivial details (flies' diets) and they strike the mark on crucial details (they're attracted to honey rather than vinegar). How do we know which details are trivial and which are crucial? Well, we just go with it, because it's obvious. But then someone like you, who even DOES understand the point of the metaphor (I think), can't get past the implications of a comprehensive and literal interpretation.

    Also, are you implying that by disproving this metaphor, you in fact don't have to be kind to me or your commenters?

    2. No, I defined "metaphor" with my own "story definition" and said that in a "story sense," it is one external thing (a character in a setting who is part of an event) representing an internal thing (affection, hatred, ambition, etc). It is not a "metaphor" in the strictest sense of the word, which is why I defined what I meant. But it's not a huge stretch to say "a hug represents affection." In a story, it could be treated as a pivotal scene where two people hug to represent love.

    This would make it a huge cliche, but it's not "not a metaphor" because it's a cliche. And we're discussing examples here, not writing fiction. So I wish you could get over that. These are pretty straightforward, "public domain" sort of examples.

    3. It's not that every viewpoint should be treated the same from moment to moment (again, you've interpreted it far too literally). It's that all of the potential is there, and that storytellers have an eye for the compelling angles. And sway people? As I said, it's not to be applied to real life values for educational purposes. Stop waxing that on. Education is education. Storytelling is storytelling.

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  8. 4. You do seem to imply that simple things suck. If education is the purpose, then why? "Be nice to people," simple and true. No metaphor used. Does this fit your criteria? I legitimately don't understand what stories look like to you. Can you point to any famous works that you think are good examples and that are complicated and don't use metaphors?

    Yes, education is real. But education is not a story. That sounds like bad storytelling. An author pushing biased views over the more frightening nature of "truth." But again, we don't incorporate all "truth" into our value systems.

    5. As I said, it is a very short story. It's a story that highlighted irony in life. He did not earn it, but he didn't have to, because it was a short little idea, not a comprehensive archetypal telling like Harry Potter. I don't have to try to interpret the story under a certain point of view, because the story was designed to come to me.

    I, like most people, have natural instincts to understand metaphors. It's very normal. You just see the world differently, which is fine. It would just be more pleasant to discuss, rather than for one of us to discount the other's ideas and suggest they're applicable to no one. So, I'm done now. With a more pleasant attitude from you, I would have happily discussed possibilities longer and continued reading your articles. But I'm very turned off to it by your attitude.

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    1. 1. Here's the thing: politeness is not mandatory. If your primary complaint and argument is "you're being rude", that's not my problem, that's your problem. Get over it. You are not a guest here. I am not going to try to impress you. If you say stupid-ass shit to me on my blog, I am going to say "this is stupid-ass shit". I, like most people, have natural instincts to understand blunt honesty. It's very normal.

      2. Your understanding of metaphors seems to be "they do whatever I want" which is why I find it difficult to take your argument seriously. You don't seem to care what the metaphors are MADE of, as long as you can twist them to serve the specific meaning you want. It's like saying "oh, it's as green as the sky" and then being surprised when someone points out that the sky is generally considered to be blue. "Being a metaphor" doesn't disconnect something from real life - if anything, it's SUPPOSED to connect it to something else. You just seem to see "metaphor" as an end in itself, which is a consistent problem in the way art treats the concept. You don't actually care about what "the message" is, you just want to feel good and get Artistic Credibility. It's just empty points to you.

      3. You really haven't brought anything to the table here except a stumbling inability to process basic concepts, and then make excuses for yourself afterwards ("it's normal! you're the weird one, not me!"). Are you really going to act like I should be sad that you've decided to leave? Hie thee hence.

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