Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Storytellers fix an unruly world

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
Saving Mr. Banks

Last night I watched Saving Mr. Banks for the first time. Screenwriters like to write scripts about writers. Unfortunately, the writing process does not make for exciting movies. Good stories require tension and conflict. Conflict between a writer and a keyboard doesn't quite cut it. Saving Mr. Banks had plenty of conflict, and the conflict occurred between two fascinating characters. I would rate the movie high for a film about writers and a decent drama across all genres.

There was a line in the movie that caught my attention. A one point, Tom Hanks, as Walt Disney says, “Because that's what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination.”

Disney, like many successful entrepreneurs, was a control freak. (Think Steve Jobs.) The line reminded me that Disney supposedly once said he preferred cartoons because he didn't need to deal with messy actorsor something close to that. Disney controlled every aspect of his empire, and at the end of his life used Epcot Center to show the world how to build a proper city. If he had lived long enough, he probably would have reordered the universe.

So the line from the script captured Disney’s personality and life ambition. He wanted to restore order with imagination. But the character revealing aspect of the line isn't what caught my attention. I listened to it several times because it reminded me that a writer’s world is ordered. If not on the first draft, it becomes increasingly ordered with each revision. Every aspect of a story is exactly as the author intended. Storytelling is an imaginary tale where everything is ordered as perfectly as possible given the skill of the author.

I started writing fiction when I consulted on the other side of the nation and found myself spending a significant amount of time alone in hotel rooms. I've always thought I wrote in the evenings because stress faded away when I transported myself to another place and time. Writing also relieved loneliness because my characters had become friends. What I hadn't considered was where the stress came from. I consulted in the travel tour industry which was chaotic on slow days. The rest of the time it was so frenzied, it made Congress the epitome of order, calm, and reason.

As I look back, I realize that writing restored order in my imagination. I couldn't change the real world, but in my stories, I had complete control. 

So if you feel stress or frustration with life, pick up a good story and escape to our world. We storytellers will take care of the rest. “Because that's what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination.”

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