Stories are meant to be entertainment. We humans love to be entertained as often as possible, variety is key to keeping us interested but it better be the form of variety that we recognise.
If I tell a story about a boy and girl, they fall in love and live happily every after, only a small amount of readers will be pleased. If I tell a story where the boy meets girl and after a while things are looking good, but then the boy gets these feelings, he’s uncomfortable about the relationship. He tells the girl that he doesn’t love her anymore. He walks away and breaks her heart. She’s left sobbing in a wreck on the floor – he tells himself that he can’t do anything for her.
The boy discovered something about himself. He had an experience that he thought would be good for him, he went with his feelings and believed wholeheartedly that he was in love with the girl. But then, one day he looked away from his love and saw something much more interesting. It could be another woman that he saw, or it could have been something that piqued his curiosity about a man. He wanted to see if he was gay, or bisexual, or even asexual. Anything goes.
Most importantly, is the fact that he screwed up their relationship and created an enormous conflict in his own life and the life of a beautiful young girl.
They’re both off the rails now, heading for disaster and the story is so much more interesting than boy and girl meet and fall in love, end.
On planet Earth, there is a lot going on. Way too much for an individual to comprehend and make sense of. That’s why we like stories, good stories that show us that life is a complex experience, that life is not always fair and that things don’t always work out how we want them to. It helps us to reflect and comprehend a little about the life that we experience each day.
Reflection on the lives of others is like looking in the mirror.
In these times we live with the constant influx of information. Information invades our everyday lives to the extent that it can be difficult to figure out whether what we read is fact or fiction, or fake news.
A new generation is coming of age and has little guidance about how to deal with the Information Age and the problems it creates. The mind is bombarded with information about how to live better, how to make money and 10 things you didn’t know about your cat’s habits.
In fact, it’s coming at us so fast, that we have little time to stop and ask ourselves who’s writing this stuff? And who asked them to write it?
A big problem is how we read these snippets of information and what we do with them. It seems to me that there is a massive problem with young people who feel that they only need the headlines, the basic list from 1 – 5 on how to do something. Then they have knowledge, or so they think. The internet is rife with experts, gurus and thought-leaders. I never made any of them my thought leader or my guru. The funny side is, they tell me that they are a guru. That’s a twisted religion if there ever was one.
A guru, by the way, is the description of a religious genius. Think Buddha, Christ etc
How does all of this relate to reading stories and telling them?
Well, our lives are made up of these things. We experience love and hate, winning and losing, being taken for a ride, being duped by a conman or woman. We reap the reward of hard work and so on. Our lives should be adventures. That’s what story tells us.
How does that adventure happen?
We make a list – just like the one on the internet. The narrow minded, or the lazy will take that list and try and make it fit into their life just like that, and when it doesn’t fit, they will complain that life doesn’t work.
The list is nothing more than a little sign post for our thoughts and wishes. The list is full of promise and that promise is broken down into threads. It’s here, at this point in investigating the list of “How to be Successful”, that the adventures begin – just like in a story.
The threads of life are what make the story. A writer is always searching his ideas for the thread that leads to conflict. It’s following that road that will guarantee an exciting, adventurous story of conflict and heartbreak. That’s what turns us on. The life of crime, risk and broken hearts are the stuff of stories – not the happy ever after that we were spoon fed as children.
I like crime. At first, I thought it was the crime itself that was interesting, like robbing a bank. In a way it is, but it goes so much deeper than that. The question is, “what sort of human being robs a bank?”. Or, why would a person spend a lifetime in crime and know that the chances are high of being killed by a disgruntled colleague or spending a hell of a lot of lifetime in jail? Neither is desirable.
Crime is about breaking out. It’s a story of a person who sticks a finger up at the rules and just goes ahead and follows their heart – they take an enormous risk to get what they want. Most bank robbers talk of the “Buzz” – the kick of adrenalin that comes with the task. I can imagine, spending weeks planning a robbery as if it was a military operation, that sounds like fun, especially when you know it’s for real. Then tooling up and going out into the cold winter streets of London, driving along towards the bank. Your gang buddies sitting along side, nervous jokes, being told to shut up. Pucker factor kicks in as you get close to the bank – someone farts, don’t know if it’s funny or not.
Then it’s happening, no turning back. The bank doors are over the road. You’re here, you wanted it – are you going to back down, bottle-out and let your mates down now? No way, it’s all an adventure – screw how much money you get, the prize is in the doing. The Buzz.
The same goes for con-manship, Black-Widows befriending lonely rich men. Taking them for every penny and then disposing of them in a dumpster somewhere around Coney-Island. Why do they do. They had to study the art of seduction, take enormous risks and learn to think quickly on their feet.
How about the girl who works in a shop, everyday? She gets up at the allotted time each morning, she catches the bus and arrives at work punctually. Then she clocks in and works till six, the boss tells her to do another hours work – probably won’t get paid. She complies with everything set out in her life by others who call themselves Boss, Guru, expert and thought-leaders. Her story hasn’t begun. It won’t until she breaks out, blows a gasket, poisons the boss and steals his money, or fakes a resume and begins working as a doctor in a far away hospital – without training but a lot of guts and determination.
We know that guts and determination is what it takes to live a life worth living. The stories of robbers, murderers and con- people are the exaggerated, telescoped ideal of a better life. The caricature of “living-it”, really living close to the edge.
We love life. Sure we do. It’s a phenomena that nobody can explain, but as writers we try and touch on some truths and tell a story that awakes the feelings of adventure and risk that could lead to a better life. A thread of an idea, not a list of ideas to slavishly follow from 1 – 5. A story that takes time to read and digest, to mull over and relate to so that you can figure it out for yourself, how to fit in, how to take a risk and come out good at the end. Without the robbing and murdering, but with the taking it to edge of reason, of pushing the envelope to tipping point. Winning and surviving to tell the tale.
Tales of robbers and heroes is what we like, of lovers and cheaters that make us angry. Sadness and confusion that pulls us up out of our seats with a fist held up in disbelief at their actions. These are the things that awaken us and make feel the threads of life stirring in our souls.