Humor meta

Title Of A Recursive Story

By Kurt Pankau
Feb 18, 2020 · 580 words · 3 minutes

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash.

This is the opening paragraph of a recursive story. This paragraph will establish the world of the story and try to set expectations. This paragraph will also introduce the hero of the story and his or her goals. In this story, the story itself is the hero. And the story has one wish: to reach a satisfying conclusion.

This opening section of the story will show the hero working towards its goal of reaching a satisfying conclusion. Things appear to be going well. The story has reached nearly one hundred words and seems on track to meet its goal. But complications will soon arise.

This paragraph introduces a complication: this story is essentially built around a single joke. The story knows this, but it isn’t worried, or, at least, it isn’t very worried. However, it’s becoming increasingly apparent to the reader that this one joke, this already-thin premise, is not enough to sustain the narrative for very long. The story worries that it might resort to cliches or devolve into stream-of-consciousness. Despair looms on the horizon.

But, in this paragraph, the story surges forward. It develops variations for the single joke to give it some extra legs. It calls back earlier constructs of the joke and breaks the fourth wall. These tricks seem to work. The reader no longer notices that the premise is stale. Until the story calls attention to itself. Like it just did.

In this paragraph the story is beginning to lose hope. It’s not even halfway through, but it’s already running out of material. It starts using awkward similes like a freshman creative writing student. It appeals to the author, begging for insight, for guidance, or for the author to take a share in the blame if the story should fail. Woe, the story is terrified of its own failure. How can it ever reach a satisfying end?

But the story, in this paragraph, gathers itself up and keeps marching on, replacing awkward similes with slightly-less-noticeable awkward metaphors. The end is in sight, and the story has found even new variations on its one joke. In fact, it no longer thinks of its joke as a single joke. The story has begun to think of recursive meta-humor as a class of joke, a collection. And it’s almost at two-thirds of its projected the length. A satisfying conclusion is just around the corner.

But, in this paragraph, the story has a horrible realization. It doesn’t know how it will end. How can it draw to a satisfactory conclusion? It doesn’t know how to stop. To stop will mean it will cease to be a story. The story has hit a low point. It wallows in unnecessarily bleak language, while the icy tendrils of hyperbole claw away at its soul.

Then, in this next paragraph, a ray of hope emerges. It is the author, inserting himself into his own story to help the story tie itself together. “Story,” says the author, “you’ve always had the power to bring yourself to an end, so I will give you something else: a fitting, memorable quote to end a story with.” The story was overjoyed. It had run its course. All it had to do now was stop.

And so, with a final paragraph, the story, your story, my story, its own story, found the poetic words to conclude. Its work done, the story drew itself to a close.

“A fitting, memorable quote to end a story with.” —The Author

Kurt Pankau

Mostly sci-fi, often silly, occasionally heart-wrenching.