Jump to content
OtakuBoards

Writing Are Old Stories the Best?


rokas
 Share

Recommended Posts

[color=sienna][font=comic sans ms][b][i]We've been reading Odyssey in my class. Our teacher matter-of-factly mentioned couple times that this is the best story ever written. Well it is a great story with complex themes and serious issues. It's put together wery well with detailed describtion and huge similies (and that's only translation). It is also the second piece of western literature (Iliad being the first). My class ofcourse had a row with the teacher using arguments like "Only couse it's the oldest", "That's because no-one could be bothered to make a better one" and my favourite "No it ain't". Ofcourse the whole argument hapened only because it's just that kind of class and it's just that kind of teacher.

In any case the issue behind this is serious, let's say that a story written before Christ is the best story ever. Then what? Could humanity really not be bothered to write a better story for almost three thousand years?

It's not just Odyssey, there are a lot of other stories created in the past that can not be outclased, think about all the Shakespeare plays. Look at old Romeo and Juliet and then look at the more modern Titanic charecters. There's no way I could remember their names off the top of my head.

What I do remember about Titanic is the names of the actors rather than charecters (ironicaly Leonardo Di'Caprio was in Romeo + Juliet). That's because actor names sell and producers will want to push them as much as possible (Mr and Mrs Smith anyone?). Maybe the whole problem is that people in charge pay more atention to profit a film, book, whatever instead of actual quality of the story. That could explain why when people are left to their own devices in industries where no-one expects too much profit in any case (childrens literature for example) you get quite good stories (Hary Potter for example). Even in popular films you get some good stories with a meaning like Finding Nemo and Star Wars, but those are exceptions where someone decided to take a risk and put their own baby through.

The problem with all modern stories is that you can say that they come from the old ones. Titanic is a modern Romeo and Juliet, Finding Nemo our Odyssey and Star Wars an Illiad. Maybe there are simply no more stories out there and we are doomed to recreate the old ones in new settings. In that case old tales cannot be beaten simply because they are old. Anything coming after them will be influenced by them.

Finaly the whole topic of the best story is trick. I come to believe that the old classics are the best by looking at the complexity of themes and the whole meaning of it, while others might judge them on different grounds and scales. Neither of us will be right. I guess it's just one of those pesky things about life.

Ignoring the last paragraph- what do you think? Are the older stories really better? If so can we hope to out do them? Is it possible to create a completely original story nowadays without copying or stitching the old ones? [/color][/font][/b][/i]
Link to comment
Share on other sites

[color=gray][size=1]The older stories were just the ones who came first with certain themes. If Shakespeare wouldn't have writ "Romeo and Julliet" someone else would've. People tend to compare stories a lot, which is very disturbing. Titanic could also just be described like "The poor boy who falls in love with the rich girl". Why do you need to compare it to "Romeo and Julliet"?
New stories are hard to come up with if almost everything is done before. Writers will force their plotline and *abrakadabra* you have bad books. [/color][/size]
Link to comment
Share on other sites

[COLOR=Indigo]Everything has already been done. I think it's been said that there are only seven basic plots on which all stories are based:

1. Man vs. nature

2. Man vs. man

3. Man vs. the environment

4. Man vs. machines/technology

5. Man vs. the supernatural

6. Man vs. self

7. Man vs. god/religion

So, why bother writing, you might ask? Because there are always a way to tell as story differently. I'm in a Science Fiction class right now, where we are reading a lot of short stories all focusing around the "Man vs. Supernatural" aspect of Science Fiction. There are so many entertaining stories based around just that aspect alone -- all written within the last 150 years. So, while some older stories might be "better," there are newer stories that are just as good and just as entertaining.

In other words, it all comes down to talent, skill, and wanting to tell a good story in a different way.[/COLOR]
Link to comment
Share on other sites

snarktastic, quick little thing. There really aren't seven different plots in fiction...because many of those can be condensed fairly dramatically.

[quote][color=Indigo] 1. Man vs. nature

2. Man vs. man

3. Man vs. the environment

4. Man vs. machines/technology

5. Man vs. the supernatural

6. Man vs. self

7. Man vs. god/religion[/color][/quote]
I'm not sure where you're getting seven, because there are only three plot concepts:

1. Man vs. Man

2. Man vs. Nature

3. Man vs. Self

Man vs Supernatural is the same fundamental thing as Machines/Technology, as is god/religion...and actually, nowhere in my coursework have I ever heard of Man vs [i]Religion[/i]...because religion itself is not an antagonist. God, sure, that's a conflict, as we see in Augustine's Confessions, but religion? Not really. There's no difference between Supernatural and Machines/Technology.

While "Supernatural" is understood to refer to ghosts, goblins, and Esquimos, etc...generally speaking, "supernatural" refers to anything unnatural--which would include Machines, god, etc...even to the extent of man's inner psyche (which would be the Man vs Self), because that is largely ephemeral.

And the plot of Man vs God would also fall into Man vs. Self, because the reason Augustine (and others) wrote Confessions is a personal guilt/redemption...to help themselves overcome personal inner conflict.

Man vs. Nature isn't separate from Man vs. Environment, either...because "environment" can really only refer to two types of surroundings.

One, it refers to the actual jungle and nature, which would fall under the "Man vs. Nature" plot.

Two, it refers to the so-called "concrete jungle," which would fall under the "Man vs. Man," plot, because cities are symbolic of civilized man overcoming the savage lands, as it were, and thus conflict there would become a man fighting his fellow men...because there aren't tigers, Humbaba, etc., lumbering about in cedar forests.

I'd agree that those seven different plot categories do exist--but only when you're really making more complicated and subtle distinctions.

When talking about basic plot concepts, though...only three of them.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

With The Odyssey, you're comparing a several hundred page epic poem to mostly screenplays. I don't exactly understand how any decent comparions can really be made in that sense.

The Shakespeare thing is more arguable since many movies are really nothing more than taped plays with "better" sets (among other things)... But again, I don't really understand why you're using random movies as comparisons considering how many absolutely excellent plays and such have been written in the last several decades.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

[COLOR=blue]It's not that older stories are necessarily better, but that since they are old stories and have stood the test of time, they are definitely worth your time picking up. If you hear of a book that's 1000 years old, you can bet that it was worth mentioning. If an all-time book was written right now, it's value probably wouldn't be fully realized until it stays around for as long as the Odyssey or something.

Also, when it comes to books and the like, people are very hesitant to accept anything current as the next big thing. I don't know entirely why, but that's just the way book...persons(?) are.[/COLOR]
Link to comment
Share on other sites

[QUOTE=Siren]snarktastic, quick little thing. There really aren't seven different plots in fiction...because many of those can be condensed fairly dramatically.


I'm not sure where you're getting seven, because there are only three plot concepts:

1. Man vs. Man

2. Man vs. Nature

3. Man vs. Self[/QUOTE]

[COLOR=Indigo]Hey, go tell my high school English teacher that. Heh.

To be honest, though, there isn't really a set number of basic plots. There are anywhere from 3 to 36(!), depending on whom you ask. I just picked the seven, though, because that's what I remember from high school... all those years ago.[/COLOR]
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If it was not for our desire to express ourselves, there would not be such a thing called writing at all. Perishability of our bodies and the conflicting emotions, morality etc issues in general make us search for ways that will keep us immortal. Even though we say that we write for ourselves(such as diaries) i believe that we actually write to be heard/read/understood.Fairies, human-shaped greek gods with their weaknesses as well as Tolkien's elves are also the products of our desires, needs, weaknesses, ego. May be we just want to believe that even the most beautiful creatures supposedly better than humans can do wrong, can be evil. These instincts are not something new, in the same way the life conditions may change but our emotions,reactions,conflict points (nature,self& other people) stay the same. Therefore,so long as the writings,pictures,movies touch our souls somehow, they live.
[QUOTE=rokas]
The problem with all modern stories is that you can say that they come from the old ones.
[/color][/font][/b][/i][/QUOTE]
For this reason, it is not the stories that imitate the other stories, it is the life itself. "History repeats itself" has a point afterall. No matter how often we say that we are more developed, civilized etc etc, in the end we are humans.
By the way classics are classics because they are the ones that could still shine after such a long time. So for today's works to be classics they need to wait and see. It is even harder for them to shine now, as today's trend is consume,consume and consume without actually creating. And yet, there are always rays of sun present on every kind of today's art .
Link to comment
Share on other sites

[QUOTE=gwynva] No matter how often we say that we are more developed, civilized etc etc, in the end we are humans.
[/QUOTE]

[color=sienna][font=comic sans ms][i][b] That's what bugged me when learning about ancient Greece. The people living back then were just as advanced as people living today. It's like all the great achievements between then and now hapened not because the humanity is mowing forward, but natural things that hapened with the flow of time.

And a big thank you for that post. I can see that I've been looking at the whole Idea of a story from the wrong angle. Storymaking is not a craft it's a tool.
[/color][/b][/i][/font]
Link to comment
Share on other sites

[QUOTE=snarktastic][color=Indigo]Hey, go tell my high school English teacher that. Heh.

To be honest, though, there isn't really a set number of basic plots. There are anywhere from 3 to 36(!), depending on whom you ask. I just picked the seven, though, because that's what I remember from high school... all those years ago.[/color][/QUOTE]
Heh, well I'd wonder then why your English teacher is telling you about seven plot types. And now that I think about it...what we're talking about here isn't even plots at all to begin with. They're concepts, the core story. They're the overarching theme to the piece.

I think I good example to illustrate what I mean is to talk about cinema, as one of the foci of this thread is more modern narratives.

The idea of plot vs story can be broken down into something like this:

The story is the idea, the concept, why the story happens.

The plot is the series of events that propels the story forward.

Example: Say you have a Man vs Self story, where a guy wants to get his life together, make something of himself. Maybe just a simple goal of getting a new job.

His desire to get a new job, his goal, is basically what the story is.

The [i]plot[/i], however, is what happens as he tries to get that job. Say he goes to the job interview and see a younger man interviewing for the same job. Turns out, this younger guy is, bizarrely, even more qualified for it than the main character, and now the chances of our main character getting this job have just decreased dramatically--and perhaps he doesn't get a call-back. That's a plot complication.

What he does after that determines how the plot is going to develop after that. Is he going to interview for another job? Sit on his ass and drink himself stupid? Go golfing for a day?

Whatever he does, it has to propel the story forward, so interviewing for another job would be a wise development, but golfing would be, as well, because it's something constructive for the character to do and isn't a cliche...like the drinking heavily option. lol

And really, I think that's an important idea for discussion about older texts vs newer ones, because for the most part, those same fundamentals apply. Solid characters are a must; logical plot is a necessity; good writing, absolute.

Why do we think of older texts as being better? Well, I think AzureWolf answered that fairly well, but I think there's more to it than just a time thing, because people do highly value modern narratives and films today. The most basic reason we see The Odyssey as totally bitchin is because today we have things like Ben Affleck.

There were stock characters throughout literary history, sure, but never did we ever have "I'm the bull. You'da cow!!" I think there is a difference in quality, lol. Even though I do agree with what Tony said about comparing cinema to 1,000-page texts...there's definitely a difference in the quality of the writing generally, I'd think.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

[quote name='rokas][color=sienna][font=comic sans ms][b][i]Look at old Romeo and Juliet and then look at the more modern Titanic charecters.[/color][/font][/b'][/i][/quote]

I wont start on my feelings about Romeo and Juliet (really, it's far from a great work of, well, anything, if you think about it), but I can tell you that the stars of Titanic were Jack and Rose.
Additionally, Shakespeare did not come up with the story of Romeo and Juliet. He simply took a well-known ballad and turned it into a play.

That said, I find it very silly whenever some one claims old literature is the only literature. Every story follows a formula. You could argue that this means there are only two or three stories, in total. However, it is the interpretation that is key.
Oscar Wilde, for instance, wrote things considered terribly risqué and, in some cases, downright inappropriate. However, were the same works to have been published first in this decade, no one would have much to say about them, as wonderful as they are.
Stories that may have presented new or daring ideas a hundred or a thousand years ago have become outdated. To get some one to really care about a Romeo and Juliet-esque tale, to have them see it as insightful and fresh, you'd have to make Romeo a woman or find some other twist to make the story interesting.
Basically, writing has to be up to date with modern taboos and mind-sets. Which brings me back to Romeo and Juliet:

[i]-a couple of kids talk twice and decide to get married
-their families hate each other[/i]

Yawn. Sure, this kind of story helps lead to modern literature, but, really, it's not that special, in its own right. (Admittedly, Shakespeare's brilliance lay in the writing, not the story.)
Also, this situation is highly unrealistic. No contemporary fourteen-year-old girl would marry some one after talking to them twice, unless they were a very dramatic exception.

The Lovely Bones, depressing as it might be, is a brilliant, original, insightful book. The concept is not anything amazing or even unusual, but the execution is mostly breathtaking. It appeals to modern-day conflicts, taboos, and views on life.
Had it been published fifty years ago, it would have been banned so hard it wouldn't have been able to see what hit it.
Today, English teachers hand it to their students, telling them to read it for their own benefit.

It's the kind of book that makes a big impact now, but probably wont be given an iota of thought twenty years from now, let alone 100.
Many, many books were published many years ago. And nobody remembers most of them. There are a handful that really stood out, that were new, brilliant, fresh, and exciting. And now a lot of them will seem dry as dust to a lot of people.

Years from now, there will be books published in this decade that every one will remember and make reference to a long time from now. However, most contemporary novels will go out of print and be forgotten.
This doesn't mean they're not worth reading. It simply means they're not timeless, in the vaguest sense.

Also, a lot of stories are remembered now because they were so publicized when they were first written. Shakespeare's works were famous then and earned him a very large house. Everybody had heard of him.
Harry Potter has been given so much publicity in its short lifetime that any child you'll run into will have at least seen the films. When they have kids, they'll hand them their old books and say, "Read. For your own benefit."

It's why six year olds know the words to songs by Elvis, despite his being long dead and his music being irrepressibly tame.

It was new. [i]Once.[/i]
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...