What is the ‘trigger’ in storytelling?
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Trigger in a short story is the point at which the individual reader’s emotional levels start fluctuating corresponding to a specific action in a story or according to the changes in the lives of characters.
This is “meeting the reader’s mind”.
In a short story, this moment is very important due to the limitations of its size. Unlike a novel, the writer should be especially careful in order to bring the reader’s mind to care for the main character’s agony, joy, or temper within a limited period of time and limited number of words.
When does a story meet the reader’s mind? A story meets the reader’s mind when the reader feels connected with the story, through the events in the story (otherwise known as action) or through lives of characters. When the story resonates with our conscious or not quite so conscious emotions, thoughts, or feelings, we say the story is touching.
Is it achievable for an ordinary writer? Of course, yes. Otherwise, I would not have written my book, Wall of Colours and Other Stories, or talked with you about writing in this webpage. The secret to achieve resonance with readers is hidden in the theory identified among literary critics and academicians as ‘Structuralism’. Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) put up the base for the revolutionary idea called Structuralism. In the 1950s Claude Levi-Strauss, an anthropologist and Roland Barthes, a literary critic used Structuralist ideas in their work. Although largely an outdated movement in the 21st century, there still are lessons that we can learn from the structuralists. What we need from the structuralists is the formulation of a storyteller’s art of meaning making. They believed that comprehensibility does not function in isolation. When the Deconstructionists caught up with the Structuralists and argued that any structure can be ruptured if the centre is weak enough. From then onwards, almost all central structures felt vulnerable. Things started falling apart. Therefore, the literary world slowly, almost abandoned Structuralism.
It is like finding a useful metal part, for the car you are assembling, from a junkyard. Using the very useful idea that comprehensibility does not function in isolation, we can device an impactful writing tactics. But how does it work?
The answer lies in the essence of the structuralist concept of meaning making. It means in order to understand an idea, an event, or a thought, certain comparisons help. A writer can provide more clarity to his concepts in relation to something else, rather than in isolation.
In other words, in a story, the intensity of the outburst of joy in a character could be more appealing to the reader, only when you show the reader, the pain, the sufferings, and miseries the character had undergone before reaching the moment of joy. That is when a reader would say, yeah, it resonated with my situation. That is when you pull the trigger. You got your reader.
About Anu Lal
Anu Lal is the author of Wall of Colors and Other Stories. He lives in Kerala, South India. He blogs at The Indian Commentator
You can catch up with him in Goodreads too.