Slice Of Life
As a reader, I have long loved what I perceived as a story’s complexity. Not complexity of plot necessarily, though that can be satisfying, but the complexity of emotional layers moving the story forward and the resulting emotional breadth I experience in following that story. Stories are like wine this way. It’s perfectly nice to drink a wine with one, pleasant flavor note, but so much more interesting when the wine has many flavors that combine to deliver a singular taste experience. The more I write, however, the more I find it necessary to view stories as simple. At their heart, most stories are quite simple: A man journeys home from a war to his wife; a middle class woman is undone by her dreams of a grander life; two young lovers are kept apart by their families’ hatred. The layers come from asking one question over and over: why? Why is the man journeying home? Why does the woman want a grander life? As we ask and answer and ask and answer these questions, the stories acquire layer upon layer of motivation.
When a writer is able to find a rich layer of motivation, the result, for me at least, is quite delicious. So delicious, it can feel as if the writer has somehow opened an aperture to the whole of life. I was so accustomed to that experience of viewing all of life through the keyhole of some wonderful story, that, as a young writer, I began with the objective of revealing the entirety of life in one story. Unfortunately, “the entirety of life” is not a story.
Now, I frequently remind myself to see my stories as simply as I can. I am seeking only a slice of action from life. However, if I look deeply into that narrow slice of action, if I let myself tell that story completely, it can be as if I’ve cut a paper-thin swath from the tree of life. Within that single swath is every ring, the very same rings running up and down the entire tree.
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