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Ideas / HighEnergyNarrative

High energy narrative

We tend to like high energy stories. It's easy for us to feel weak, and vicariously living a powerful life through the stories we consume is comforting. But does this escapism pollute our potential to lead effective lives? I don't think it has to, but in many instances it serves only to reinforce our self-images as ineffectual human beings, which can only be a bad thing.


  • All stories have to exceed a certain energy threshold to have a chance at being interesting. But energy is relative to the observer. (A story of a normal day in the life of Joe Bloggs isn't worthy of a story, unless you happen to be unfamiliar with Joe Bloggs.)


  • Absolute energy - the story is primarily about messing with the entire fabric of the universe.
  • Relative energy - the universe is, primarily, the backdrop against which the story occurs.
  • Saturated energy - implies no spectrum of energy: anything that isn't saturated is just on the way to being saturated.
  • Graduated energy - there is a spectrum of energy levels, and interesting things can happen at any of them.
  • Inexchangeable energy - This is necessarily a conceptually closed and one-dimensional shuffling of counters. But can still be interesting.
  • Exchangeable energy - is there an energy economy going on? There can be parallel, possibly interacting energy threads: physical power, emotional, romantic, conceptual, spiritual, etc. Conceptually open, multi-dimensional.
  • Unbalanced energy - leads to steamroller type stories. Small actions have small effects. Big actions have big effects.
  • Balanced energy - leads to edge-of-seat, will-he-won't-he type stories. Small actions can have big effects.
  • Unconstrained energy - limitless expansion leads to massive, low detail scenarios.
  • Constrained energy - limited expansion leads to high detail scenarios.

There must be others, but I haven't thought of them yet...

My preference

It strikes me that for a high energy story to be interesting to me its energy must be exchangeable, balanced and constrained. Relative energy stories tend to have a better track record at this than absolute energy stories.

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Page last modified on June 01, 2007, at 11:12 PM