miriam english (miriam_e) wrote,
miriam english

happy stories?


Does anybody know of a story (film, book, short story) that is entirely uplifting? That is, one that has no bad people, no trials and tribulations, no obstacles the main character has to overcome -- just a story that is unrelentingly happy.

Many of my favorite films come close, such as "Whispers of the Heart", "Amelie", "Clueless", "Jersey Girl", "The Lake House", "The World's Fastest Indian", "Damsels in Distress", "What's Up Doc", but all have significant downers in the story.

Does anybody know of a story that is up all the way through?

(Crossposted from http://miriam-e.dreamwidth.org/326007.html at my Dreamwidth account. Number of comments there so far: comment count unavailable)
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I think totally uplifting would mean you wouldn't have a story! Seriously, without conflict there's nothing. I remember a sort of mantra about plots we learned in university. For "man" read "human," all right?

Man against Man
Man against Nature
Man against Self

I forget who devised this but they believed all literature could be boiled down to these. Somebody else came up with an even simpler one - I think they must have watched a lot of Westerns - which was "A stranger rides into town!"


November 8 2014, 16:21:58 UTC 3 years ago Edited:  November 9 2014, 04:39:07 UTC

Hi Alex! :) Great to hear from you.

This seems to be the generally held opinion, but I'm now absolutely certain that it's wrong. If you think of the stories we like to relate to friends, some will be stories about events in our lives that are about outstandingly happy times in our lives -- the time when you built a house of blankets and pillows as a child; the time when you and your best friends made a special journey in to the city to see a cool movie or to see a great band; the time when you spent an afternoon at the beach with an old lover and ate fish and chips while watching the sunset; the time when you went driving with a friend and ended up more or less lost, miles from anywhere, but loving the scenery and company -- those are stories with a point that can be happily related and keep the listener interested.

A friend told me yesterday that there is a class of Japanese/Korean/Chinese stories that don't use conflict as a story device, though this doesn't necessarily mean they are happy stories. They rely upon surprise twists as the main device. It makes sense that this can be done as pretty-much all jokes use this as their vehicle. Anyway, this storytelling form is called Kishotenketsu.

I think we have unwittingly become sucked into our Western tradition of perfectly horrible stories, and most particularly USA culture's love of conflict, weapons, and violence. All the stories I mention above ("Whispers of the Heart", "Amelie", "Clueless", "Jersey Girl", "The Lake House", "The World's Fastest Indian", "Damsels in Distress", "What's Up Doc", and more that I've thought of since, such as "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist") do have conflict as part of their story, but the main theme doesn't rely upon it, they are enjoyable in spite of the strife/unhappiness, and they could conceivably have been made without it.

The movie Titanic is about happiness until the catastrophe, and I've often felt that if that whole tail of the movie was removed it would have enhanced it. We all know what happened to the ship so the telling of that was unnecessary and I always felt it ruined the story.

I loved the movie "Avatar" up until the conflict-filled second half.

Recently some people have pointed me to some stories that I'm told don't have significant unhappy parts:
Under the Tuscan Sun - Frances Mayes (I've seen the movie years ago, but can't remember it well)
The Enchanted April - Elizabeth von Arnim (this is on Project Gutenberg for free download)
Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons (written in 1932 to lampoon all the sad stories current at that time by famous authors about rural life)
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion (the most recent of these, about a scientist with Aspergers who sets about courting a woman)

Two of these (Under the Tuscan Sun and The Enchanted April) are about a wonderful time people enjoy having escaped sad circumstances, so in some ways the unhappiness lurks in the background, but the stories are actually about being happy, and I'm told they lack conflict as a storytelling mechanism.

Cold Comfort Farm is a comedy about a cheerful young girl pulling a bunch of chronically unhappy characters up by their socks and fixing them up.

I haven't read any of these yet (though I now have all of them). The most promising one I think is The Enchanted April. It is loosely about one wonderful month Elizabeth von Arnim spent when she and three friends escaped their lives by pooling their money to rent a small Italian resort/castle. It has been made into a movie twice and a stage play.

I should have mentioned why I'm interested in this... well, I've been interested in this idea of relentlessly happy stories for some time now, but the reason I'm especially interested right now is that such a tale features within the short novel I'm currently writing. It's a bit like a Russian doll, and has a story within a story within a story, the innermost one being devoid of conflict or unhappiness. I'm hoping I can make it work. We'll soon find out. :)

What projects have you got running at the moment, or are considering embarking upon?
I think a story needs some conflict, but can still be uplifting within that. You mentioned Titanic. This movie still had conflict between the characters well before you get to the iceberg; the class divide thing, the reaction of whatsername's relatives and so on. If it had been a pleasant cruise on a calm ocean, where would the story have been?

I'm probably not explaining that well. I personally prefer stories with some conflict, but that's not to say unpleasant/violent/gory. Happy endings ok but they need to be realistic :-)

I'm not doing much writing at the moment. The head doesn't want to oblige. The voices are not speaking to me. Partly it's work concerns. Partly I have other things on my mind. If you read my journal you'll see my landlords want to demolish an old shed on this property and build a granny flat on it, which one of them wants to live in. September was projected but I still don't know what the s***t is going on, which doesn't do wonders for my morale.

My main garden project has been moving some of my favourite plants out of the "danger zone" to the other side!

Speaking of conflict; I'm at the moment trying to integrate two young rats with my three residents. The elderly rat is fine, he doesn't care, but the boss rat is making life difficult for the young guys. They were dumped in a car park and then handed over to Perth Rat Rescue and now they have to deal with a rotten rodent twice their size! They're in separate cages but I hold "friendship sessions" out on the couch.
Hmmm... been a long time since I saw Titanic. Looks like my memory is faulty. No news there. :)

That sucks -- a landlord moving into the property. Bummer.
Good that you're taking action to save your garden ahead of time.

Sad that so many animals have this pecking order system. I've often wondered if it has any reason for its existence outside simple self-perpetuation. It's often said that it keeps the species strong, but somehow I doubt it. Often, quite crazy systems evolve with no purpose at all. If they become too extreme then they act as a brake on survival and tend to die away, but up until then they can produce bizarre traits that have as their only purpose the mechanism to ensure their own continuation. We have a lot of strange memes that do this. Religion's only real function is to ensure its own continuation. So long as this doesn't become too extreme it doesn't impact survival of the species, but when it does go out of control you end up with Jim Jones, David Koresh, that suicidal comet/UFO cult, the Moonies, and so on.

Ants have giant societies where there's no pecking order and they manage brilliantly. Mind you, they've had hundreds of millions of years to perfect theirs.

I heard a talk recently (can't remember just now where) in which it was discussed how mean and nasty boss chimps can be to the other males lower in the pecking order. It was discovered that especially nasty alpha males become so badly bullied when they eventually lose their leadership position that they tend to leave their tribe to join another troupe. Kind alphas stay on after being deposed and continue to have bonds with the females in the group so actually do much better than the meanies. I expect that given this, nasty dominance would eventually die out, but it might take millions of years.

I'm hoping the obvious advantages of being able to work together for mutual benefit will cause mean and nasty dominating behavior to eventually die out in humans too. We are becoming dramatically less violent and more helpful to each other, along with becoming more intelligent. But is it happening fast enough?

Wow! I can edit my comments! LiveJournal must have changed that rule.
I accordingly repaired the name above.