1 min read

Closing the loop

The simplest form of storytelling.

I talk a lot about WOARO, but I think there is an even less complicated form of storytelling.

In Keith Johnstone's book Impro, he talks about narrative skills. He points out that we can have a series of events, but it doesn't necessarily make a story. He says:

The trouble with such a sequence is that there's no place where it can stop, or rather, that I can stop anywhere; you are unconsciously waiting for another activity to start, not free association, but reincorporation.

Reincorporation is about taking the details from the previous series of events and reincorporating them into the story and thus ending the story.

This concept is simply a reiteration of Chekov's gun, which suggests that any element introduced in the story should be used can be considered superfluous. As he states:

It's wrong to make promises you don't mean to keep.

As human beings, our readers are pattern-forming creatures. Therefore, whenever we suggest an element, we set up the potential for an open pattern. The more it is mentioned, the more it solidified as an actual pattern. And the moment that pattern is opened, the more our audience wants it closed.

We can also use this to our advantage. For example, the longer we keep patterns open without losing the audience's interest, the more we can tease them to want the ending.

But there is also the danger of being predictable. If every element we introduce suggests it will be reincorporated, the more likely our audience may predict our planned outcomes.

The reverse may also occur, where you fail to hint towards necessary details that lead to the end, and the audience feels cheated.

So, if you are trying to build a story, start with the basics. Suggest elements, such as characters, places, objects, themes, imagery, wants, goals, obstacles, and other questions, and play them out before reintegrating them back into the story.

All stories are about opening and closing patterns.

And remember, it doesn't mean that you have to close every pattern, but no matter what you do with them, your audience might potentially read into everything you put on the page.