The Double Action of Stories

What makes a story a story rather than just a sequence of sentences is that all stories engage in a double action. Every sentence in a story, even a description of the weather that provides the atmosphere surrounding its action, does two things: it tells the reader of something that hadn’t happened before and at the same time provides information to the reader about how to understand what is to later unfold or has previously occurred. You learn of Macbeth’s forebodings of a promising future, which is an event in the play, and you are forewarned about how to greet further developments. The reader or viewer’s mind is provoked to cast ahead because each event is a revelation as well as something that just happened. That is why stories are so magical. They violate the strictures of time by allowing those who hear it to cast back and forth in the story as if the audience were a god.

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