A funny thing; we all think our lives are the most fascinating tales; Worthy of best selling novels and movie adaptations. The truth? Most of us are as dull as wet bread. We simply have no real excitement that would differe from everyone else in the world.
What separates a good story from the mundane are conflicts not frequently encountered by everyone; or conflicts encountered in a manner or confronted in a manner that is not frequent. As an example, I recently saw a little blurb about how someone thought their life would be fascinating on paper because as this person said “I have three kids, all under ten.” And this is so unique that it deserves its own novel? Really? Newsflash – lots of people have three children under ten years old. My brother has ten children; and it is not a religious thing. Is his life fascinating enough for a novel? No. There has to be a catch, something that makes the story about more than just leading a harried life.
Guess what, we all live that life. It is the way of the world; but do so in a family that has it’s own uniqueness like the Von Trapp family and suddenly you have a story. Without the catch, or as Faulkner said, a conflict of the heart, there is nothing really to tell.
Hell, I was a very good distance runner, I was a Marine, I was a world class power lifter, I gave up career opportunities and love to be a good father, I was a college strength coach; I have been a lot of things, but I also recognize that nothing in my life is inherently interesting enough to make a good novel. About a million people will look at my life story and say – so what? See, that’s why most of us do not have our own “Wild” inside. Walk a couple thousand miles on a trail through some of the worst possible weather conditions known to man by yourself with no money, you will have a great story. Go hiking on the weekends and maybe summit a couple of mountains and you will bore the shit out of people.
We watch the Oscars and think we all have an Academy Award winning scene somewhere in our lives. It is the concept of hope. We have to believe ourselves to be fascinating or we cannot seem to motivate ourselves to go on. Delusions.
The truth is that the best stories I can come up with are fictionalized theories of my own life. Fragments of Humanity is not about me. It takes one small segment of my life and fictionalizes all that follows. That moment in time has interesting possibilities, it is really just a snapshot of a young stupid kid. Nothing amazing happened; no crazy epiphanies, just a kid who went AWOL, go caught, went back to base and unfucked his own stupidity.
I used the word paradoxical to describe me, but I think there are plenty of people just like me; you see them and expect one thing, meet them and get two sides of a coin that seem different. We don’t make sense to marketing experts, but we still somehow make sense to ourselves. That doesn’t mean we have a best-selling novel in our life experience, just that we experienced life uniquely. Maybe a good story-teller could weave some magic wand through our history and come up with Catcher in the Rye. But the reality says that it comes up with nothing. And that’s okay.