Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Story, Part 1

I am reading Donald Miller's semi-autobiography A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and he has answered some deep questions about human nature that honestly work, intuitively and scripturally.

The book is once again, a peek into the mind of Don and in this episode [novel], Don has been persuaded to have a movie made of his first book, Blue Like Jazz. It has an immediate difficulty: there is no real plot in it and the filmmakers have to make up one to have a film people will pay to see.

In the process of letting these Indy filmmakers live at his home and getting retrospective about his life, Don realizes he isn't living a very good story.

He is confirmed in this by attending a seminar by the infamous Robert McKee who has written a must-read book for all novelists and screenwriters called Story. After the seminar, Don confesses to his bud Jordan that he really doesn't understand what a story is, essentially. His buddy replies succinctly while watching Seinfeld:
"A story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it."
Don stops and asks him to repeat what he said.

"A character...," replies Don, scribbling in his journal.

"Who wants something-," replies his bud patiently.

"And overcomes conflict..." says Don.

"...to get it." finishes his friend.

Don looks at it and is impressed. It is the true essence of a story. Any story. Without conflict, you got nothing. Without a goal, you got nothing.

Later, when Don meets up with a married bud who's in distress. His13 year old daughter is dating a slouch and beginning to smoke. He doesn't know what to do.

Don replies, "It sounds like she isn't living a very good story."

"What do you mean by that?" asks his friend.

Don shares that we all like stories, and we need them to make sense of life. We need conflict to help define us and grow. Otherwise, we have no meaning.

His friend thinks about it and realizes as head of the family, they are not living a very good story, either. He thanks Don and leaves.

When Don sees him months later, he finds out that his friend's family is now involved in building orphanages in Mexico. Even though it is a financial strain, it has put meaning back into their family. It has renewed his marriage with his wife.

"And your daughter?" asked Don.

She broke up with her boyfriend last week. She's living a better story, said the father with a smile.

"She wasn't a bad kid. She just needed a better story."


I highly recommend A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller.

[to be continued]

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