Critter Corner: The Storyvore
Image: Dave Francis
Hello, friends, and welcome to the first blog post of my Whimsy section! This category will include bits of fiction or otherwise fanciful posts that provide no useful advice or commentary whatsoever… but I hope are fun to read anyway. They're certainly fun to write. Enjoy!
A Treatise on the Storyvore, its Eating Habits and General Traits [excerpt; emphasis added]
By G. Pincenez
To start with a reductive biological analogy: plants make their own food from sunlight, whereas animals must consume matter to survive. The storyvore is a different type of organism altogether. To survive, as its name suggests, the storyvore requires a plentiful diet of stories.
… the storyvore’s voracity is nearly inexhaustible. It is fortunate, therefore, that the storyvore is generally not a picky eater, although individual preferences have been noted. …. The stories consumed come in a startling array of forms and can be transmitted through almost any means: casual conversation, short-form instant messaging, audio-visual presentations, drawings, songs, gestures, even something as crude as marks on a page.
You may wonder at this point what precisely constitutes a “story.” As the description above suggests, the variations of story are nigh infinite. Fortunately, we can identify the necessary qualities of story by studying the storyvore's diet. For the purpose of this treatise, I will present the admittedly simplistic definition that a story must have a person (see note 1), a place, and a problem.
The general effect, as least of nutritious stories, is to evoke some sort of emotion in the storyvore—anything from fear to delight to excitement to deep sadness. (Appendix C provides a more thorough discussion of the anatomy of a story and its common variations.)
From my observation of storyvores in the wild, it’s clear that story is not simply recitation of facts. Storyvores have a much greater appetite for story than they do for reality. And the merest whiff of story—person, place, and problem—appears to be quite irresistible to storyvores. Besides my own work, I would point readers to Kawasaki and Simard (see note 2) for a study of the seductive effect of the phrase, “Let me tell you a story…”
This leads me to one of the unique traits of the storyvore. While in many ways storyvores appear to belong to the animal kingdom, and indeed consume stories that originate outside of themselves, they possess the same ability as plants and certain bacteria to produce their own food.
In fact, the storyvore is almost continually, instinctively, producing stories. Time and time again we have witnessed a storyvore recounting experiences—which we have duly observed as a straightforward series of events—in a distinctly storified manner. …
In cases where an individual is pressed to be as objective and factual as possible, it’s a struggle for the storyvore to resist story-shaped arcs. … Further efforts to quell this self-sustaining process [of producing stories] are, in my view, unethical. ...
Addendum: my editor has requested, rather forcefully, that I include a mention of the etymological squabble surrounding the term “storyvore.” While I personally believe this term is a modern portmanteau, and other interpretations are clearly specious, there is a small but determined school of thought that believes the word’s origin is not “storyvore,” drawing on the Latin vorus, “to consume,” but instead “storyphore,” from the Greek phoros, “to carry.”
Proponents of this theory think that the creatures’ key attribute is not about the consumption of stories, but how about they carry stories within them. Not only that, but these theorists go one step further and muddle “phoros” with “phos,” referring to light. According to them, stories are akin to an internal Olympic torch: not consumed but rather ignited, a Promethean currency that can be shared without exhaustion, an inner beacon that defies any external darkness.
I admit that even I see the appeal of this interpretation. However, regardless of my editor’s feelings of fair play, I must assert that there is little linguistic basis for any of this. It’s clear from my research that storyvores require stories to live, and I shall continue to observe stories as a form of necessary sustenance. For the moment, there is enough scientific interest around the storyvore to keep all of us—myself and my detractors—busy for years to come.
1. Or similarly personified element—a protagonist, to use more technical terminology.
2. Luke Kawasaki and Marielle Simard, “Let me Tell you a Story: Perceived Intoxication Levels of Storyvores Based on the Promise of Food,” Philolozoology, 27, no. 2 (May 2010): 68.