This post contains mild spoilers for Little Women, Return of the King, Dead Poets Society, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, and Battlestar Galactica. That’s a pretty weird tossed salad of stories, but bear with me. If you’re worried about being spoiled on the first five, seriously person, you’ve been living under a rock for the last century. ;)
Recently, my husband and I started watching Battlestar Galactica again after buying the entire series on blu-ray as a Valentine’s Day gift for ourselves. (Yes, that’s how nerds celebrate romance.)
Partway through season one, while watching a particularly tense episode, I realized that I was sitting on the edge of my seat (aka schlumpy rec room couch cushion). Now, there’s nothing particularly unusual about being in suspense during an action-packed TV show, but what struck me is that I knew exactly what was going to happen, because we’ve watched every episode of Battlestar before. I knew whether Starbuck would asphyxiate from the toxic atmosphere on the planet where she was stranded. I knew if the Galactica would have to jump to other coordinates and leave Starbuck behind. I knew whether Apollo would realize it was Starbuck flying the Cylon raider and not the enemy before shooting her into oblivion. And YET, I was still practically biting my nails while the plot unfolded.
Why? Because it’s storytelling at its best. It doesn’t matter if it’s a TV show, a movie, or a book, great storytelling will still be great the second, third, or fourth time. The story has been told in such a way that no matter how many times you watch or read it, you find yourself drawn in, connected, absorbed, and kicked in the emotional gut. It has that extra spark that keeps you coming back again and again.
It’s why I cry when Beth dies in Little Women or when Sam carries Frodo up the side of Mount Doom. It’s the reason I cheer every time Todd Anderson stands on his desk and says “O captain, my captain” at the end of Dead Poet’s Society. It’s why I cringe with laughter when Gilbert calls Anne “Carrots” and she smashes that slate over his head. It’s why I swoon when Jane saves Mr. Rochester from the fire in his bedroom (In her nightgown. Shocking!) Time and time again, we return to our favourites and enjoy them just as much or maybe more than when we were first introduced to them.
These are the stories I want to write. Stories that people will pick up and read over and over. That’s a pretty lofty goal, and I’m not sure if it’s one I’ll ever accomplish, but it’s something to aim for.
Do you have a favourite story you never get tired of reading or watching? What are your goals for the stories you write?