A Friendly Canvas
When I started telling stories, I quickly realized I had to know why I was telling a story before I began it. It wasn’t enough to know simply that I wanted to tell a story, that I wanted the attention that came from having my turn on stage, because once my turn came my mission was accomplished, so to speak, and there remained the unanswered question of what exactly I planned to do with that attention. So I thought I should share a good feeling. The first good feeling that came to mind was accomplishment. These stories usually went something like this: “I won! Not the other guys – me!” If you were my mother or father you might have enjoyed this story, but only because – as I have learned in the last nineteen years – parents can fool themselves into believing their child’s accomplishments are their own. For the rest of humanity, however, this was a boring story. Bragging kept the audience at a distance where they were not allowed to join me in my triumph, only admire and applaud me.
So I endeavored to find stories that would invite my audience to join me. I noticed that tales of woe usually attracted a commiserative band of sympathizers. In these stories I was the innocent victim of someone else’s lousiness. There is a kind of brotherhood in outrage, but these stories left me feeling as lousy as the person who’d wronged me. A good story, it seemed to me, should leave everyone in a better place than when it started.
I eventually found stories that began with a problem to which I had contributed. Usually I didn’t realize I had contributed to the problem until the end, the delicious end, where the problem was corrected not through action but perception. In this way, every story brought me back to that moment before I’d begun telling stories, a world without good guys or bad guys, a friendly canvas waiting to be filled.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.