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What Is It About Stories? by Wolf Pascoe @WolfPascoe

It’s not say what you want. It’s get what you want. If nobody wants anything, stay home.  — David Mamet
Of everything I’ve ever read by the playwright David Mamet, his little dictum on the essence of drama is the thing that sticks.
Somebody has to want something.
If not, there’s no story. If not, stay home, put the book down, play Monopoly.
I’ve read too many tomes on writing that take 50,000 words to say the same thing, and not as well.
What is it about stories?
You can mess with them, add distractions, leave out details, leave it to the reader to connect the dots. But you can’t mess with somebody has to want something. When somebody wants something, I’m listening. So are you. It’s in the DNA.
Listening for what?
The meaning of life, of course. Whatever story you believe is what you’re giving your life to.
If I know your story, if I know what you really want, then I know what you’re giving your life to. And I want to know what gives your life meaning because maybe it will help me find the meaning in mine.
Most of the time, when we’re asked why we read books, we say it’s for entertainment. But I don’t believe it. I think we’re reading to discover the meaning of our lives.
When my son used to wake up in the morning, the first thing he’d do was come into our bed and nestle between my wife and myself. He wanted that more than anything because that triad meant his whole life.
Now he doesn’t do it anymore. When he wakes up now, he goes downstairs and listens to his latest Redwall book. He’s got a new story. He’s a warrior now. It’s what he’s giving his life to.
I can enter into my son’s new story, but only as a warrior.
“Dada, sword fight,” he says when I come down.
And the duel is on.
As a writer, I always try to listen for story. It’s not easy. Usually what I’m listening to is silence. It takes me a lot of silence to come up with a story.
The real story isn’t always the obvious one. I’m never sure if the story I come up with is real or fake. Sometimes all I get is, “Did you floss today?”
Here’s one of my favorite stories about stories. It concerns the famous Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung:
Jung’s father was a preacher, and Jung was raised with a lot of fire and brimstone. As a result, he was terrified of God.
Early in his medical career, Jung visited the United States and went on an extended journey into the American southwest. At one point, he found himself watching a group of Navajos dancing before sunrise.
“What are you doing?” Jung said to the chief.
“We’re dancing to help God bring the sun up,” the man said.
All of Jung’s cynicism about religion, which was rooted in the forgotten terror of his childhood, came out in what he said next:
“Suppose you didn’t dance. Would the sun not come up?”
“Why would we do that?” the chief said. “We have a partnership to honor. We’re in partnership with God.”
That answer changed Jung’s life. The chief was a man who really wanted something. This was one hell of a story.

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Genre – Non-fiction / Memoir
Rating – G
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