The storyteller begins, ‘Once upon a time …’ and ends, ‘… and they lived happily ever after.’ In between is an illustration of what happens to a character who ‘lived’ at that time and the struggles that marked the way to winning ‘the fair hand’ with whom the happily ever after is to be spent.
Oh, but … I hear you say, not all stories are fairy tales. And, naturally, I agree with you. Yet, all stories require these two moments: an announcement that something is about to happen, and an announcement that because of what happened some sort of satisfactory conclusion arose. This illustrates that the storyteller must invent the beginning and the end so s/he can concentrate on the middle — because that’s the guts of it.
When the storyteller says, ‘Once upon a time …’ you are being made a promise that you are about to be told about something that happened to someone, and what they did to get what they want.
Of course, it may not end in ‘… happily ever after.’ It may be ‘… and he died of loneliness’ — our someone may not have won the fair hand, which is what was desired, but instead dying trying. Tragedy, you say. Perhaps, I say. Tragic, at least.
The point here is not what was won or lost, but someone won or lost.
It’s all about someone — not just anyone, and certainly not no-one, but someone quite specific. Someone in a position to have wanted to ‘win fair hand’; someone who would face insurmountable struggles in the quest — struggles you or I might have some difficulty counting among our own personal experiences, but struggles you and I would consider worthwhile nonetheless; struggles that bring light to the world — metaphorically speaking of course.
We would give up valuable time to spend time with this particular someone — that’s how worthy they are — time spent listening, reading, watching, and then more time spent talking, discussing … Every great character we read in books or see on a stage or screen is Someone.
You, the writer, need to know Someone inside out, completely, warts and all — and that takes some special observation about specific things, things you can pile one atop the other as though composing a complex musical score; things that generate harmony, dissonance, pace, distance, tension, flow, power, submission …
Making Someone takes time and dedication and one or two tricks from life. I’d like to show you some of those tricks this July. Join me at the Creative Writing PD Masterclass for ATAR English teachers, and we’ll see. Details here.