Every Story


Every Friday night for the last seven years, my wife, my youngest son, and I have watched a movie together. Sometimes it seems like there might be more Friday nights in our life than movies we want to watch, a problem that for some reason has landed entirely on my wife’s shoulders. She scours Rotten Tomatoes and Netflix reviews, watches trailers, and keeps notes when a friend praises a film that had flown under her radar.

If I were keeping score, I am probably totally satisfied with only about twenty-five percent of the movies we watch. Usually, it’s a mixed experience. The premise is enticing and the writing is strong, but the ending is vague. Or the characters are rich and beautifully drawn but the story meanders. Occasionally, we get a stinker. When this happens, it doesn’t take long to know what we’re in for. In fact, my wife’s usually the first to speak up. She’ll say, “Wonder when they’re going to let us know what the story’s about.” It’s not long after this that my son abandons us. My wife and I always stick it out, the way we have to gawk at a car wreck we pass on the highway.

My wife always apologizes when we finish these kinds of movies, and I always tell her there’s no need. First, I’m grateful I don’t have to find the movies. Second, regardless of whether we like the movie or not, we always enjoy sitting together and eating our popcorn, and we always enjoy laughing together if we think it’s funny, or complaining together if we don’t like it. And we always enjoy talking about the movies afterward, what we admired and what we wished the filmmaker had done differently. We always have a good experience together, and the movie, good or bad, serves as the catalyst for those experiences.

Like every artist I know, I want everyone to love what I write. I want to entertain and inspire every reader, to leave them feeling better when they finished a story than when they started it. I never want to disappoint a reader, to confuse or bore them. I know, however, about pleasing all the people all the time, and about taste, and about the limits of my work’s appeal. And I also know, though I don’t often consider it, that even if someone hates my stuff, if they throw my book across the room, they’ve still had an experience they’ll use in some way, grow from in some way, enjoy in some way, even if it’s only in finding a friend they can complain to about Kenower’s awful stories.

I don’t want to be there when that happens, but I hope the reader has fun with his friend. I hope they have a great conversation about the kinds of stories they want to read, about the kinds of stories they want to write, and the kind of life they want to lead.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.