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Published:September 5th, 2006 12:32 EST
Whence Upon A Time

Whence Upon A Time

By Sean Stubblefield

No story is ever simply "A" single story, in and of itself, but is actually many stories told simultaneously, determined by its audience. When you and I watch the same movie, we aren`t really watching the same movie " we only seem to be. Five people reading the same novel read five different stories. If you and I both watch The Day The Earth Stood Still, whether together or separate doesn`t matter, we aren`t really getting the same story.

It will mean different things to each of us.

Perspective directs perception. We, as audience, are " by nature of the relationship between subject and object-- inadvertent co-creators in the stories " infusing and influencing the story with our identities, our ideas, our ideals. Everything really is relative, subjective, conditional.

Attitude, beliefs, personality, experiences, biases, health, environment, and such " including even the medium " these elements all affect how we interpret a story in our mind`s eye, and what it means to us. What we think and feel about a story is as much informed by the telling and presentation of that story as it is by our conceptualizations " both of it and the world we live in. Our reality defines the framework of how we receive a story.

Previous exposure to a story-- either in another medium or the same medium from a different portrayal, as well as in another time and place, and in other circumstances-- can influence how we view the story if we encounter it again. If we read a story, and then see a movie version of it, our experience with the book will influence, to some degree, how we view the movie. Conversely, if we see a story as a movie before reading it as a book, then our experience with the movie will influence how we view the book " how we construct and appreciate it. I saw the movie Fight Club before I read the book. But when I later read the book, I superimposed the reality as depicted in the movie onto the book. I saw the characters as the movie showed them. Whereas, had I read the book before or instead of the movie, I would have imagined and envisioned them for myself, rather than using the casting and imagery provided by the movie.

On the other hand, I read The Da Vinci Code prior to watching the movie adaptation, and during the movie I kept wanting to see the characters as I had seen them in my mind`s eye while reading the book. This situation also demonstrates another facet of cross-medium substantiation: having read the book first, it helped to supplement the movie, allowing me to elaborate in my mind, filling in the blanks and background details not covered in the movie. The nature of a movie (or TV show) usually necessitates brevity and summation, but the nature of a book usually permits it to expound more indefinitely.

Sometimes, a movie could further develop or revise a story as told in a book, and sometimes a book could further develop or revise a story told in a movie-- as with the movie and graphic novel versions of V For Vendetta. Each format told essentially the same story, but with variations in detail and author interpretation. So in yet another way, in the retelling or re-imagining of a story, the same story isn`t exactly the same story; and that`s before it even reaches an audience.

So when someone asks if you`ve seen a certain movie or read a particular book, the answer isn`t quite as simple or clear as we think. The answer is: well, yes " but not exactly.