It was a dark and stormy night.


Story Story

It seems odd to put our meta-comments on the same page as the story. Why not link to a separate page and give the reader a choice?

We are trying to show the intertwining of story and meta-story.

"Meta-story" is too vague a term. It includes too many kinds of discourses, and many of them are not "stories."

There many kinds of meta-comments, most of which are not necessary to the story but might be illuminating. Discussions of the author's biography, of the state of story-telling technology, of the publishing industry, and other such "external" issues are useful, but they aren't necessary to the telling of the base story.

My point exactly. So what is left for us to be discussing here?

Stories can be told without an explicit meta-story, although in hypertext the temptation is stronger to make the various meta-discussions explicit and linked.

But explicit or not there are many levels surrounding even a simple narrative. For instance, there are the presuppositions needed to understand the story. Some of these will be linguistic and social background skills and information. Some will be narrative "backstory" or presumed micro-stories the reader is expected to know.

The first sentence here, "It was a dark and stormy night," for example, puts many demands on the reader. The reader needs to know English grammar, why the night is dark, what a storm is, why "dark and stormy" reinforces a certain mood, the history of the sentence as a clichéd way of invoking that mood, and implicit references to Italo Calvino and to the use of the sentence ironically by Charles Schulz and others to indicate the beginning of a bad story. And for our comments, there are the knowledge and skills read this kind of expository prose.

The reader has to understand these italics as different voices, and how to read dialogue. But none of that is a meta-story. If anything those requirements are an infra-level of prerequisites needed for reading both story and meta-story.

But even in telling the simplest of straightforward one-level narrations there are performance issues that get decided by reference to reflective meta-stories that are narratives told to themselves by author and reader. As we'll see.