The Whole Story

Stories are just what happened over a period of time. The characters and what happens determine whether the story is a good one or not, but any stretch you choose to look at contains a story. We often forget that while we might not be writing all the parts, we oversee the edit.   Where you choose to begin and end a story is vital. Movies would be terrible experiences if we left after the second act.

Usually there’s a lot of bad stuff that happens around the end of Act Two. All is lost! Lots of hurdles and seemingly-insurmountable obstacles weigh our heroes down.

When it comes to our own stories, sometimes we get so caught up in telling the bad parts we forget that most of them have ended just fine, though you wouldn’t know it from the way we tell them. We rehash the chase scenes and the shootouts with ease. Look at all the terrible stuff!

I think we should tell the happily-ever-after parts more frequently.

Where you begin and end a story matters. Jaws would have been boring if all we saw were people happily swimming at the beach. It would have also been unsatisfying if the film had cut off at the halfway point, too, and we’d leave pretty sure the shark ate everyone.

You need to put the brackets around the entire story. You have to let the hero blow the fish up, so that when you retell the story it has the whole lesson: there are big scary things outside of your control lurking in the water and sometimes you have to deal with them.

When we tell ourselves stories about what’s happened in our own lives, we have to make sure to start and stop the story in the right place so we can distill the correct lesson.

Bad things always happen to me is a story I hear from people constantly. One I hear less often is bad things keep happening to me and I keep surviving them.

Where you put The End matters. All those bad things work much better as a collection of short stories where the hero overcomes challenges that eventually make him stronger, instead of one ongoing tale of an unlucky soul who can’t seem to catch a break.