30°F & Clear 7 day forecast Friday, October 31, 2014

Grand Valley State University's Beacon Since 1963, Allendale, MI
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Column about story telling

I wrote a story featuring a fictionalized version of myself (writers sometimes indulge in a little situational narcissism) going for a walk and dealing with some heavy thoughts, like leaving loving parents in a mostly empty nest and trying not to lash out in psychotic rage when I feel someone walk too closely behind me when I’m using a urinal. Something like that.

Anyway, one of the comments left for me was involving setting: Where is this character going, why is he walking, etc. As if those are questions that need to be answered; as if the focus of the story was on the destination and the possibility of a life-changing Hallmark movie kiss.

The story actually involved none of that. The focus wasn’t even on the one and only main character, really — it was on coping with anxiety in a couple of specific ways. Or at least, I intended it to be. I questioned my final grade, but more so than that, I question the bigger picture: why must there be a destination? Why is “going for a walk” not good enough? What greater motivation for “going for a walk” need there be, besides “I wanted to go for a walk?”

That’s been weighing on me for a while now. I’m wondering things like… “Am I not ambitious enough?” I always heard that the journey could be more important than the destination, so I figured if there was no destination, there would be more importance to allocate to the journey. I’m not concerning myself with the destination, so I can devote more attention and enjoyment to the journey.

It’s always about the message with people. The subtext, the hidden meanings, the social changes the writer wants to see enacted or redacted. Why, though? Why does there need to be these things? Why can’t a good story be a good story and nothing more? What’s so bad about taking things at face value? The efforts of overcomplicated people to overcomplicate things that aren’t complicated in the first place and certainly don’t need to be, are absolutely frustrating.

Hmm, example: Winnie-the-Pooh. Kid’s stuff. I’ll bet you that someone out there in the vast ranges of the Internet has a blog or article talking about all kinds of different things Winnie-the-Pooh can teach children. And those online postings don’t even need to mention “poor spelling habits” or “gluttony,” because we have texting and Epic Meal Time for those other purposes. As if kids actually care, you know? We could stand to be more like kids sometimes — loving and appreciating things for what they are, not what they mean.

I guess I’m just sick of all the navel-gazing. I want to smile and enjoy and play with the living, hopping frog, not lay it out on a platter all chloroformed up and cut its heart out. I wish relationships could be like that frog, without the scalpel and pins. Or the chloroform.

rlowe@lanthorn.com



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