A Yes, a No and a Straight Line

Nietzsche wrote that a person (well, he said ‘a man’ most likely) only needs three things – a yes, a no, and a straight line. This can apply to fiction writing as well. There are supposed to be ‘six kinds of stories’ or maybe it’s seven, or maybe thirteen, and there is the hero’s journey and the proper stages of dramatic action and so on. Lately I feel it can be reduced to one simple principle – a story needs a heart and a direction. All the variations stem from that. The most common, of course, is the sympathetic heart on an arc towards a happy ending, but the permutations are endless. ‘Crime and Punishment’ is the exact opposite. In Kafka’s ‘The Castle’, both the heart and direction are confounded and confused. ‘Heart of Darkness’ provides a road to hell paved with uncertain intentions. It goes on and on. As a writer, you make your choices but nearly always both are present, even a heartless heart and a directionless direction are quite all right.

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