Sometimes I think there is nothing more beautiful than the brilliant whiteness of a blank page. It is full of promise and hope and the combination of words in such a new way that poetry is created. It is virginal and afraid, desiring to be filled with ink but wanting to be handled with love. This is the the absolutely perfect imitation of creation that man has invented. The closest facsimile of Genesis that we are allowed. The blank page is fresh and inviting and chaotic all at the same time. Its nothingness screams to be filled with beauty and purpose. It begs to be whole. To abhor the vacuity that is it natural state. It wants to be ordered, to be given variety, to sing with language like the morning robins. To coo with poetic wisdom like the dove.
The blank page is an infant, freshly expelled from the womb, full of promise and hope and a preponderance to return to its natural chaotic state, if not lovingly molded and guided to fulfill its full potential. This, then, is the purpose of writing and the the terrifying responsibility of all who place the nib to the page. But like all acts of creativity and novelty, writing must be done with a Marine’s allegiance to duty, a parent’s devotion to love, a theologian’s thirst for the ethereal, and an artist’s rebellion to create. Only then may the blank page begin to either bloom or wilt with the ink that shapes its soul.
Throughout the ages many people have tried to define the question: what is story? From Plato to Joseph Campbell to the plethora of artists who have ever picked up a pen and dared to create a symphony of words, story has been examined, dissected, experimented with, and categorized. But despite all the knowledge about story, the one common denominator in every tale is passion. It is the writer’s desire to write that has driven the telling. That insatiable appetite to metaphorically represent how one sees, understands, feels, and experiences life. It may be set in a familiar or exotic town. It may have elements of fantasy or conspiracy. It may be eloquent or clunky. But beneath every story is a writer’s love for what he’s doing and what he’s telling.
This, then, begs the question that every writer must ask himself as he types “Chapter 1” on the page: what am I telling, and do I love the story? If these two questions cannot be answered or if, at worst, they are avoided for whatever reason, then the author is not worth the ink in his pen.
Ideas may invigorate. Premises may shape. Concepts may provide a compelling context. But without passion, story cannot blend all of these things to create a holistic experience in which one changes with the character. Story is not a passive observance of someone else’s change (i.e., the hero). It is the most intimate form of empathy we have created, for a good story taps into the reader and shows him how to change. He sees a hero’s love, disappointment, excitement, confusion, intelligence, spirituality, and frustrations. He witnesses how to overcome, survive, perceive, develop, and at times, how to embrace death. A hero can never be a simile of the reader. He must instead be a metaphor. He cannot be like the reader. He must be the reader.
Therefore a good story must be about us and reveal all of us to us. We writers must pull back the mystery from the axiomatic soul and expose it in such a tale — simple enough to understand and complex enough to love.
So, I ask: what is your story? Once you know, write it until your passion and pain are exhausted on the page and the best summation of the experience (for both author and reader) are the words: The End.