Are All Stories Created Equal?

My best friend used to badger me about the premise to my story. What is your premise? What are you trying to say with your writing? What's your character arc? Story arc? Where's Noah's Arc?

But my friend had a great point. Some of the best stories have something to say that usually involves the main character's arc: becoming the person she should be, like moving from self-hatred to having high self-worth. Or how Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet shows pure innocent love will die in the adult world, a very harsh statement, the real tragedy.

From my own experience, when I started to write Nightfall, I couldn't see what my character or story arc was. I'm not sure why, but it might have been because I was steeped in developing the plot, building the world, the characters and their traits.

One of the many great things about Harry Potter is Harry himself. His character traits seem normal: thin and not physically strong, wears glasses, has a scar, loyal to a fault and honest, isn't the greatest student. But he's special, surviving an attack from the baddest dark wizard, known as the boy who lived, a powerful wizard. In a sense, Rowling might have been saying that we are all somehow special.

My main character is the exact opposite when it comes to character traits, with a purpose, and I didn't realize this until several months ago after working with the character for eight years. Talon is tall, handsome, has luscious long locks—blonde hair—and is the commander of the most powerful military force in the provinces. Men fear him because he's never been bested in a fight. Women love him because they feel so at ease when they're in his presence. In a way, he's perfect. As the story begins, we immediately see that he has holes—faults, fears, and the same controlling issues that all parents have when it comes to his own children. As the story moves along, we see how gaping these holes are. Despite his perfectness, he, and in a sense all of us, are human.

It's a commentary that we are all equals with our own strengths and weaknesses. So it doesn't matter how special people seem to be, we have faults as well. And that perfectness that we seem to strive for, or look for in others, can vary a great deal. Kinda like saying a perfect rose has twelve petals and not thirteen because thirteen is an unlucky number, which is ridiculous. Are there certain traits that we gravitate to? Sure. When people ask me what I look for in a woman, I jokingly respond, "Four B's. Busty, blonde, big butt." It's ridiculous.

Look at this big yellow shaft I'm holding

Whenever a homeless person asks me for money, I always respond in kind, whether I give them money or not. When a waitperson serves me, I always thank them. Even if I meet a CEO of a company, I'll joke with him as if he's my friend, which happened when I met the CEO of the company I work for.

He flew to various locations around the US to greet his worker bees as the newly crowned CEO. When he had arrived to our office, he was making the rounds, shaking everyone's hands in their cubicles. Then he and his entourage approached me, I introduced myself as Jimmy. Confused, he saw the placard displaying the name 'Lauren', who was absent that day. I was sitting at her desk because I don't have a desk at that particular building.

"But now I'm Lauren," I quipped, "after my sex change operation."

He and his entourage laughed and said, "You look pretty buffed for girl."

"Thanks to our health benefits, I've been taking steroids."

And no, I did not get fired.

But I do my best to live my life with that view of equality. Does that mean someone who is taller than me is better than me? Maybe in basketball (I'm not very good, so that's not saying much). Or are there people smarter than I am? Sure. But intelligence is very specific. I don't need to know how to build a computer if I'm a writer. I need to know how to structure a story, how to evoke emotions from words, what a character trait really is, etc.

As human beings, we are all the same. We love. We eat. We drink. We get hurt. We sleep. We love to laugh. We shit. It is the nature of being human.

Coming back to storytelling, I don't think you need to know everything about the story or characters from the beginning because it may be too much. We need to trust that the story will naturally come out and the technical (i.e. structure and grammar) and finer details (i.e. story and character arc) will be ironed out during the rewriting/editing process.

And yes, I'm biased as to what a good story is. Arcs anyone? But that doesn't mean that books like Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey don't have their place. The market loves them. But will they stand the test of time? I'm not sure. There's a reason why the Bible and Shakespeare's works have lasted and still make their marks. There's meaning in them. And what is meaning? It means something. Duh. Meaning, especially in story, helps change our view of life. It's why we love going to movies. We want to be moved, to see another viewpoint of the human condition, ultimately to help understand ourselves. Do Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey do that? I can't say. I've yet to read them. Even if they don't, is that important? Time will tell.

Friday Quips

The sun's warmth hugged me as I sat outside Starbucks doing rewrites. A woman and her cute but tentative dog sat behind me. She cooed at her little buddy, trying to get him to drink from the bowl. Two girls and their own dog strolled from the pet store next door to the lady and started gushing over her shy pup. The girls giggled and left to continue their dog walk.

The lady said, "That was your chance buddy."

Being torn out of my fantasy world, I glanced at the girls walking away, surmised they were around mid-teens, and said, "They're a little young for me."

The lady laughed. "I was talking to my dog," she referred to his chance at making a new friend with the girls' dog. "But I'm glad you think so."

Yeah, cuz I don't wanna be Bubba's bitch. 

An example of the meaning of life:

Dude, who farted?

Dude, who farted?

Resistance is futile:

Picard was here

Picard was here

When I was in Hawaii, I had made a mistake at work that was pretty significant. I had also hired a writing coach to shore up my manuscript before submitting it to agents, and I joked with her, asking her to tear it apart. She did. Both of these things happened within the first week of arriving in paradise. I wanted to quit my job. I had nightmares of my coach shredding my dreams of being a writer, let alone a published writer. I dove into the dark depths of depression. Well...not really. But it sure felt like it.

Then a realization popped into my head. I ain't curin' cancer. What happened to me aren't real problems. You know what a problem is? Running away from a grizzly, knowing that a grizzly is way faster than the fastest human being on earth. Or sky diving and thinkin', "Where's my parachute?"

The worse that would happen is that I'll get fired and never get published. Neither of those things would end my life. Being ripped apart by a bear wouldn't feel too good, sorta like a really bad massage with no happy ending. Trying to land from a 15,000 foot drop wouldn't be a good day either. Well...I'd land. I'd just be a lot shorter than I am now.

Another example of the meaning of life:

Did you remember to turn off the iron?

Did you remember to turn off the iron?

A couple of weeks ago, I'd went to a lecture about orgasm. This woman talked about flow, like how athletes are in the flow when they're playing, and that flow is really orgasmic, which was another word for adrenaline, in other words, bait and switch. Then, she read a list of quotes, I think they were about her, of how she wasn't a conformist, how she was an individual, implementing her in our minds as unique because she ushers away societal norms. After each quote, this woman gazed over her subjects, and several people in the audience of about thirty nodded their heads and laughed, agreeing with the quotes, proclaiming their own uniqueness and individualism as well.

First of all, she had been trying to butter us up, get us to conform to her ideals so she could sell her personal coaching sessions, which was fine.

Second, we's alls be special, gurl. I'm special like yellow bus special, but that's okay. Shuttering away from societal norms doesn't make you unique or separate you from being a sheep. It just makes you a follower. Knowing yourself, your loves and hates, being connected with yourself and others, accepting yourself for who you are, or following your own beat of the drum is what makes you special. Having your own voice, thinking for yourself, or living a life of wonder is more important than trying to conform to a non-conformist. Fuck! Just freakin' live. No one is guaranteed tomorrow.

Another example of the meaning of life:

Stairway to Heaven...or the beach

Stairway to Heaven...or the beach

Women and men are different. Whoa, Jimmy, you're, like, hella brilliant. As I was peeing in a public restroom, I tried to dissolve a piece of poo stuck to the side of the toilet bowl. I thought to myself, I know of no woman who would do this. And not because they don't have the equipment, they'd just use a toilet brush.

Women and men love to accomplish stuff. Women's accomplishments, for example, are connecting with people, listening, empathizing with their circle of friends, gossiping about others, gathering information, raising children, winning arguments against their men.

Men are more physical. We like to have trophies to reflect our accomplishments. Things such as animal heads, cool cars, loud motorcycles, big houses, or caves for the cavemen, rolled boogers from our nostrils, earwax, or very audible farts are our prizes.

Last quip: I heard the new bachelorette, Andi Dorfman, say, "...all y'all's..."

She's a lawyer, so she is edumacated. Yes, that's edumacated. But saying all y'all's is like saying, "It's totally, completely, entirely, and 150% cool." 

And what the hell am I doing watching The Bachelorette? My sister had it on, and I was like who was that, and she wasn't even in the room. Ok. I was lyin'. All y'all's don't hate.