Living a better story
Editors note: This blog post was originally published February 17, 2016 on this website
I don’t live good stories.
I tell ‘em well. But those stories aren’t usually mine. And they’re usually about other people, too.
I have plenty to work with, but it’s kind of all over the place.
So I live bad stories. Or, at least I think I do.
What a horrible way to think.
Good stories have a structure.
Usually there’s a subject and there are characters. As the characters develop tension builds. All of that tension climaxes with conflict. The conflict is then resolved. In the end, all of the story stuff has to be strung along a timeline broken up into acts. And before it’s finished, it’s simplified to something a listener or viewer can digest.
Yeah, boring, right? But that structure is what keeps us watching awful Nicholas Cage movies and every damn Marvel installment. We love it. We can’t get enough. It feels so natural.
But good stories aren’t my favorite stories.
My favorite stories don’t have structure. At least, not a lot of it.
I like the kind of story plastered all over the place. The kind torn apart like a puzzle and thrown about the room. I love listening to a story and piecing it all together. I like risking not having every piece in the right place.
It is a pain in the ass, yes, but it is also a hell of a lot of fun.
I laugh. I cry. I critically think. I feel things.
My favorite stories are better stories because they’re real and engaging.
Better stories are actually achievable, too. I have a solid chance of living them out.
But I don’t live them out. It’s an issue.
I think I found the solution to the problem, though.
Like so many other twenty-somethings, I’m dying to tell the next good story. But I can’t.
I can’t tell a good story because I haven’t lived enough to tell one.
Structure in good stories is helpful because it takes one significant event and dramatizes every second of it so narrative can be condense and made consumable for everyone.
But that structure doesn’t work on a day-to-day basis.
Only so much happens in 24-hours. It’s rare enough time will transpire for a good story to take place.
In reality, a bunch of the small moments we live influence all of the dramatic seconds in a good story. A good story results from the better stories.
Because good stories come once in a lifetime. But better stories are unavoidable. It’s hard to believe good stories exist. But better stories? It’s the only kind of story we encounter every day.
No rhythm. No consistency. Unpredictable. Unruly.
I think better stories have more tension and conflict than we give them credit for. We just don’t like a lack of resolution, so we forget about them.
Honestly, that’s super encouraging. Especially for me, a twenty-something who has wanted to tell good stories for his entire life.
Now, I know there is something else, and I want to tell better.
In order to tell better, I need to live better stories.
What I mean by live better stories doesn’t imply anything weird, like a new moral standard or more extreme behavior. It simply means looking at all of my actions through the lens of story.
If I want to tell better stories and possibly good stories too, I need to live in a way where my better stories aren’t forgettable.
I can’t waste my behind-the-scenes moments of the larger good story being bored and living bad stories. The invisible, forgettable moments in everyday life are the foundation of the heart-stopping seconds in our favorite stories.
What a great thing to think about.
I don’t live bad stories anymore. At least, I don’t believe I do.
I have plenty to work with, and it’s totally all over the place.
I tell it well. And while I talk about others, the stories are mine, too.
I now live better stories.