Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two. The Grinch had been caught by this tiny Who daughter, Who'd got out of bed for a cup of cold water.She stared at the Grinch and said, "Santy Claus, why,” "Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?"But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick, He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick! "Why, my sweet little tot," the fake Santy Claus lied, "There's a light on this tree that won't light on one side.""So I'm taking it home to my workshop, my dear." "I'll fix it up there. Then I'll bring it back here."And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her head, And he got her a drink and he sent her to bed. -Dr Suess
If you are like me, you cringe when you read the word "narrative" in a report.
You know that you are about to waste time reading about flights of fantasy that have only occasional, accidental encounters with objective fact. It is beyond my comprehension that any reporter would ever use the word "narrative". It is an admission that they are about to repeat "information" they know is not factual.
So I was tickled to run across this essay, "I am not a Story"
The author contends that it is common for people to create order in their lives by formatting it as a story or a movie script. It is, however, not universal.
The author of the essay suggests that students of psychology tend to be an introspective bunch. They are not truly representative of the larger population. Their introspection does not scale to include everybody.
There are many who lack introspection, or who live totally in the moment. There are others whose past is not populated by the warm, cozy cottages of A. A. Milne or Jan Karon. They would rather husband their emotional reserves to battle today's demons rather than squander them refighting yesterday's unwinnable conflicts.
"Narrative" has other handicaps
If you have lived long enough, you have witnessed unexplainable tragedy: Pearl Harbor, Boston Marathon, Ebola, car accidents, dead toddlers washed up on the beach.
If you have lived long enough, you have witnessed unexplainable, miraculous good fortune: The love of a good woman, child birth, heroic sacrifice.
That which cannot be explained is poor fodder for "narrative." Quite literally, "narrative" is the "explaining" positioned between the dialog and action. How can one "explain" what is inexplicable?
Another shortcoming of narrative is that it demands "proximate cause". Two-hundred thousand tons of wet snow is not proximate cause. Narrative demands the clap of the hands or the report of a gun shot to explain an avalanche. Life can be weird. Narrative fails when an event has deep, undeniable, emotional impact on us and we cannot identify proximate cause.
Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of "narrative" is that the script demands that we cast ourselves as the hero, especially when we have not acted in heroic ways. This causes "narrative" and observable fact to rapidly part company. I am talking about the angelic choir-boys where were about to enroll in college. You know the ones.
In some cases, the narrator takes the Promethean script, "I am so great that the Gods chose me for special torment." In their minds they are sublimely heroic. The rest of us see them as tedious, self-handicappers.
Another shortcoming of "narrative" is that they almost always rely on presumption of other's motives as a source of energy and conflict. Presumption of motive is not observable fact. It might be good story telling but it is not a way to be successful.
For the record, I am not very good at creating "narrative". Mostly it is because I am too lazy to keep notes. Also, I grew near the middle of a family of eight children. I have no illusions about the universe revolving around me.
Remember: "Narrative" = old Grinch was so smart and so slick, He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!...Quick, that is, if spending a lifetime bending observations to fit is "quick".