Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone. Whether you’re old or young, adult or child, whether you live in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, Australia, or on an island in between all those continents, or even in Antartica, you have a story to tell. Whether you are an everyday Joe or Jane, whether you’re in prison or free, whatever you situation or experience in life, you have a story and you probably want to tell it.
Most of those stories are probably about people’s lives, about their experiences, about their joys and sorrows, their successes and failures. Most of those stories will end up as essays, or poems, even vlogs and blogs, maybe just delivered from one person to another by word of mouth.
But all those stories are important. They are about people and their lives. Everyone of those stories are valid and everyone of them deserves to be told.
However, the success or failure of a story depends upon how well it’s told and how well it’s presented. Likewise, stories fail if they are selfish and self-centered. People want to understand each other, learn from each other, know where someone is coming from and where they are going.
Stories that are just recounts and lists of personal accomplishments, of greed and lust, of betrayal and hurt and hatred, of selfishness and self-righteousness, full of boasts and bombasticness, are doomed to failure. Few people, if any at all, want to here that.
People want to know they’re not alone in their experiences. They want to know if there is a better way to do things or a better way to handle things. However, all stories need three things: a beginning, a middle, and an end. And whether the ending results in success or failure is irrelevant to those listening to or reading it, so long as they learn something about the teller and about themselves.
A good story needs careful and considerate thought.
All of these aspects of a story are especially important if you’re writing fiction. You want people to walk away from your stories after reading viewing them with this thought in their heads and hearts, “That was a good story.” And you want your audience to follow that revelation with these thoughts. “I’d like to read or see that again,” or “I can’t wait for the next story.” But that won’t happen if you don’t dig deep into yourself, putting your fears and your desires into your stories through your characters. You have to keep digging deep into your heart, your psyche. You have to keep asking yourself, “How can I make this story better? How can I make these characters better? How can I create better suspense, better conflict?”
Conflict isn’t just about hurting people, killing people, the state versus the common person, monsters, zombies, vampires, demons, or snakes or spiders, or storms. How many of us are so at peace with themselves that they are unafraid of death? How many are unafraid of losing the people they love? How many are unafraid of never achieving their dreams and goals? And how many don’t even know what their dreams and goals are? How many feel lost and alone?
How many of us are unafraid of commitment, either with a romantic partner, or an organization, a club, a religion, a nation? And how many of us believe that the ends justify the means? That as long as you get what you want or think you deserve that it doesn’t matter what happens to someone else?
I’ve personally experienced that last item. My first job, after college, was as a sports photographer for a regional newspaper. This wasn’t before computers but it was before digital cameras. You used film in cameras. You took pictures by exposing film to light, then you processed that film and printed pictures from the processed film.
So what happened? The lab tech for the newspaper wanted my job. She had been told it was hers. But then I came along and the paper chose me over her. But though I knew how to process and print my film, they chose to keep her as the lab tech. And someone, maybe the photographer who had retired and promised that she would get the job, told her to get the job anyway she could, by any means possible. So she sabotaged my film. She literally threw my exposed film out and processed blank film.
For three weeks, the paper had didn’t have any sports pictures. People were angry at them. Coaches and teams and supporters of teams were furious with the paper. The paper was furious with me. I checked and rechecked my equipment. Everything worked fine. Was I too far away? Did I forget to use the flash? Was my lens cap on?
By the time I figured it out, that I was being sabotaged, I had been fired and she had my job. But I wasn’t just fired, I was black-balled. I was listed as a liar and a fake. No news organization would hire me.
I was hurt and angry and full of hate for that person. But I didn’t seek revenge, what good would it do me? I wouldn’t get my job back and my reputation would be even further ruined if I sought revenge.
So I moved on. What else could I do? And now, all these years later, the hurt is gone, I’ve forgiven her, whoever she was, and the whole thing is only important as an example to watch my back and quickly find out whatever I’m doing wrong. If I can.
Whatever happened to that lab tech, I don’t know. I just hope she didn’t continue to destroy other people in order to get what she wanted.
That’s a good example of good conflict and a good story. And also true.
You can find good examples of good stories that dig deeper to make themselves better everywhere. It’s the human element, more than the threat of physical or societal danger, that makes a story a good story. That’s where the the conflict has to begin and end, with people. Especially, if the conflict is both with other people and within your main characters themselves.
Here are good examples of good stories full of personal conflict. Look at the PBS series’s such as “Call the Midwife”, “Selfridge”, and “Downton Abbey”. Look at “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. That’s a perfect example. Everyone of the main characters is messed up somehow, either running away from something or desiring something that isn’t theirs.
Without the conflict between people and within themselves, none of the Avengers movies, the Star Trek Movies, the Batman and Superman stories, not even The Hunger Game series, the Divergent series, or the Harry Potter series, would work.
It’s people, with their strengths and their flaws, that make stories great. Descriptions, action, and violence are less important. People rule.
The last thing I want to say is be unafraid. Did deep inside yourselves and tell your deepest stories. What you have to say is important, but only if you’re unafraid to say it.
Your stories are worth something. And the deeper you dig, the harder you try, the better you present it increases the value of each and everyone of your stories.
See you out there.