I’ve been consuming stories at an accelerated for the past year or so. My appetite for story is not bound by medium; I consume any format. Novels. Sequential Narratives. Audio. Television. Film. Games. However, my hunger continues to be unsatiated.
(I Can’t Get No) Story Satisfaction
I don’t think I have dedicated this much time to engaging with story in quite some time. Not since I was a teenager. But even when I was a teenager, I experienced satisfaction. I’m not saying that the stories I’ve recently read, watched, or listened to are less than great. They’re not. In fact, the stories I have been consuming of late are some of the best I’ve ever experienced. Many are even capable of breaching that oft impregnable fortress known as nostalgia. For a long time, I thought that nothing would ever be able to achieve the same status in my mnemonic vault of awesome as those stories I devoured in my youth: Lord of the Rings, Dragonlance Chronicles, or The Chronicles of Prydain. If these stories were just as good, or better, than those improved by the glamour of nostalgia, then why the hell can’t I get the contentment, the satisfaction, the gratification I used to enjoy when finishing a good story?
Am I just growing more jaded as I age? Have I developed callouses on my imagination? Fuck, I hope not. If I take inventory of the direction and changes I’ve made in other departments of thought, I like to think I’ve only become more open to concepts. In the past decade, after transitioning from my enlistment in the Marine Corps to becoming a husband and father, I’ve become a card-carrying feminist, a proponent of gay-rights, grown more liberal in my political tendencies, and being someone who is just generally more accepting of foreign notions and things that are unlike me. So I don’t think I’ve grown jaded. Certainly, I have less patience to spend on stories I don’t think I’ll enjoy. So I do find myself encountering many more false-starts and abandoning stories far more easily than I would in my youth. But I don’t feel that’s being jaded, I think just feel like I have a better return on my investment these days. I need to, because I have more things requiring my attention, a daughter, a wife, a career, and my house. Things far more important that entertainment.
I don’t like personal mysteries, I should understand why the hell I feel this way. Hungry. Starving. Maybe my story diet didn’t contain the right nutritional balance. So I began dissecting the concept of story. I read about the structure of story. I read about the evolutionary and psychological need for story. I took a look at the stories that gave me that initial sugar rush of fulfillment and tried to understand what my imagination was craving. The nebula of gathered evidence collapsed in upon itself under the gravitational pressure of introspection until I had this protostar of an idea. There is a very specific story I want to experience and I cannot find it. A lot of the stories I was absorbing were near misses, but none of them hit the mark, quenched my thirst, sated my hunger. I spun that protostar around in my mind until fusion initiated and I realized that I have a story I want to tell. There are stories in me, begging to get out and in order to feel satisfied, I would need to write them. And thus a star, err, writer was born.
Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Wired for Story by Lisa Cron
Image credit: Eating Book by Butayban via DeviantArt
Listening to: Come with Me Now – The Kongos