Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Life As A Story

My dad is a fantastic storyteller. I am not.

In fact, I pretty much suck at it. I can give you a long line of chronological details spelling out a big background of information with a grand build up but when it’s time to pull it all together and make a succinct point, well, that doesn’t always happen. I wobble in the random much of the time. Such is my need to discover the art of creating a good story.
My dad, however, has a way of telling a story that includes just the right amount of necessary information, coupled with humor and the power of his point to make a story you will enjoy listening to and get something out of.

If life is a story, which I think it is, then the elements that make a good story parallel our lives.

Donald Miller says in his book, “A Million Miles In A Thousand Years”, that a story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

That’s it. That’s all a story is, in essence.

1) Character. There must be someone or something in the main role.
2) Ambition. There must be someone or something that the character desires.
3) Conflict. Without struggle, the story is weak and uninteresting. 

When it comes to my own life being a story, I often get hung up on the conflict. I don’t like it. I don’t like the disappointments, the things that hurt, the setbacks, and the unfulfilled desires. But without those things, my life’s story is weak and unmemorable.

Robert McKee says, “Joy is what you feel when the conflict is over. But it’s the conflict that changes a person.”

No one likes change. We like to be comfortable and have it easy but the conflict pushes us to an uncomfortable place where change takes place. There is positive, there is negative, there is pain and struggles followed by relief and happiness and still more rounds of the same. We don’t change without a shove. And change in the character is what makes a good story. 

In a strong story everything has a purpose. Every scene, every interaction, every bit of dialogue, is carefully crafted to move the story forward toward the culmination. Have you ever watched a movie where the scenes are out of order? Pulp Fiction is one that comes to my mind. The scenes are not in chronological sequence and it feels like the movie is bouncing around and it’s hard to follow. But when you get to the end, it all makes sense. I think this speaks of life as well. No matter how out of order it may seem, nothing is happenstance.

It doesn’t make sense that you have a Master’s degree and can’t find a job. It doesn’t make sense that the person you planned to be with forever doesn’t love you anymore. It doesn’t make sense that you followed all the right steps to stay out of debt but now you have 20k in medical bills. It doesn’t make sense when you love someone who is committed to someone else.

The scenes seem so messed up.

Maybe the reason that life feels so random sometimes is because we haven’t been looking at it as a story.

Maybe if I can see the individual scenes as part of a story and if I can run toward my ambitions, jumping head first into risk regardless of fear and if I can embrace the inner and external conflict as my personal character arc built to change me then maybe my storytelling skills won’t suck quite so much. 

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

"If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive." —Barry Lopez

1 comment:

Ang said...

They are looking for you to woite their next story. submit something.