Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary describes story as “an account of accidents or events.” But, I think I learned in my sixth grade free-write that not every story has to be completely fleshed out to be a good story. A story may have very little plot, but still act to inspire the reader in some way.
When I wrote during those few minutes in sixth grade, I did not write a story. I wrote a feeling. I wrote a photograph. I couldn’t even call it a vignette, because a vignette would have some sort of broader context.
But since then, I’ve learned to be able to attach a feeling, a moment like this, to a story. In a vignette I wrote called “First Snow in the Mountains,” I was able to craft a moment that had the context that was missing when I wrote in sixth grade. It took me eight years, a lot of reading, and some excellent teachers and mentors to be able to do this, but it showed the progress I had made as a writer.
Why does this matter to me (or to you, dear reader)?
It matters because it shows the impetus behind my writing. Namely, that I believe writing should make a reader feel and then motivate them to act.
(Disclaimer: I don’t claim that my writing does this, but I sure hope it does.)
In my understanding of Buddhist metaphysics, the Buddhist worldview describes people as the result of infinite causes and conditions. Human-beings, each one of us, are only who we are right now because of all of the other happenings that have brought us to this present moment. Whether that be our birth, the decision of our parents to move to a certain place at a certain time, or any number of other events and decisions, these moments have made us who we are. This is not only true of you, but also of me, and also of every other person, place, and thing with which we have ever interacted. The way I have heard this described is “independently co-arising.” We are all becoming, and this process is our own, but unavoidably linked to the goings-on around us.
If this is true (and I believe it is) then that also explains our place in the world. By that I mean that it gives us the beginnings of purpose. Your own philosophical, metaphysical, sociological, and religious beliefs will all contribute to this purpose, but at our most base we all affect one another. Our stories have an impact on those around us.
Writers (narcissistic breed that we are) have the unique opportunity to have an impact well beyond anyone we will ever meet. As such, I believe that we have the implicit responsibility to craft something that makes the world a better place. The most effective way to do this, in my opinion, is to make a reader feel something that prompts them to act. I think stories are one of the best ways to do that.
(Wow, that was a lot of opinion there. Feel free to post alternative opinions in the comments)
The best stories that I have read made me feel something and made me want to do something. When I wrote in sixth grade I was writing about a feeling, but what I wrote did not prompt me to want to do anything. I doubt anyone who read it would have felt differently.
All that said, I think I have come a long way in my writing. I think you see some of that development on this blog. But I couldn’t have done that without help. As a writer, and as a future educator, I hope to be able to inspire people. That’s what that is called right? When you feel something that causes you to take action? Surely that is a decent definition of inspiration. Hopefully, I will help others to rise to something greater.