I’ve been thinking about the nature of story this summer. What is story? Is it truth? Is it a well-constructed lie used to dupe an audience? Is it escapism?
Some might suggest that our stories about ourselves are the narratives we construct in reaction to events and others’ perceptions. These can either damn us or set us free. If this is true and your story is dependent upon other’s perceptions of you and your actions, what does that say about you? Maybe it makes you a passive character in your own construct.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. When life becomes too hectic, I often feel like I’m in a hamster ball on a treadmill. When I settle for mediocre because I feel I have to, then I lose a bit of myself while maintaining the lie, the sweet facade that says “Yes” all the time.
But if I was more like Rhett Butler and “didn’t give a damn”, would that force me to surrender passivity? Would that make me arrogant? Maybe. At least I would feel as if I am driving through my own narrative landscape.
We are all distracted by others’ stories. How much time do you spend on social media? Isn’t that what social media is… story? How many of us see so many posts of beautiful people, beautiful things, and feel bad about ourselves? We forget these are fictions. Or we are overwhelmed by cries for help punctuated by Go Fund Me or the personal cause de jour. Often I can’t even see some of my friends’ stories because of some blasted algorithm.
As a writer I have found myself a bit stumped about story lately. I am starting to understand that writing is not inherent in the first draft, but is the process by which we take that clay and shape it into some form that affects our reader. Stories today need to be more evocative then ever, needing some shock value to just get attention.
Hopefully a reader can relate and connect to the characters and understand that they are not alone. Maybe they can adapt to a foreign setting and find new appreciation for history, or learn that the “other” is just the reflective image in a mirror. Rarer still is the reader who appreciates the author’s craft.
While preparing for my high school adventure that starts in September, I have been reading older stories, ones that some would argue should be removed from current curriculum. This makes me wonder why these are the stories I am to share with my students. I ponder how to help them understand these narratives’ value in this modern world, and of course, how to read them. Which brings me to the most nagging question, whose story is worth knowing?
Time to read some story.