I am reminded, at this juncture, of the most important part of a good story.
We fill the air with noise. We move the plot forward with our words. We spend so little of our time in contemplation. We need that pause. We need that moment. We need that silence in between the sounds. Without the silence we cannot have contemplation, we cannot let our fears and hope grow.
It’s that time in between that we cannot fathom, though we are more intimately aware of it than the sorrow on one end and the joy on the other. To live is, after all, to wait. To wait is to be uncertain, to acknowledge that we cannot know, cannot be certain, we can only hope or fear.
Time does not matter when the uncertainty of life consumes us with hope and fear. Seconds stretch out to hours, days, years. Years compress to months, weeks, minutes.
This is the logic of the dream and the story. Time passes and things change, but not in any way that can be reliably understood through the simple and useless act of looking at a clock or calendar. This is how we can be the little boy, the brave knight, and the ailing king all at once. They are us, but at different times. Those times do not matter, though, not in the logic that can come from dreaming, storytelling, or waiting.
We start a story with “Once upon a time…”
We end a story with “…Happily ever after.”
Everything that happens between is a mere ellipsis between the beginning and the end. But that mere ellipsis is what matters more than anything else. That ellipsis is the waiting. It is the only part we can conceive of in the story, the only part we can properly understand.
And we tell stories to pass the time. We tell stories of monsters to articulate our fears. We tell stories of heroes to articulate our hopes.
Those stories, in turn, are filled with moments of sorrow, of joy, and of waiting. Our heroes suffer because we suffer. Our heroes face defeat because we face defeat. Our heroes win the day because…well, because we hope to win the day and by telling the stories we hope to bring the magic that protects and guides the hero in to our world.
The nature of the hero, too, must be examined. For the hero is not the biggest, the strongest, the best-looking, the best-equipped. The hero is not the smartest, wisest, the most articulate. The hero is not the richest, the most powerful, the most popular.
The hero is the one who sees what must be done and does it. The hero is the one who stands before the monsters with nothing and yet does not give up. The hero is the one who realizes that not all monsters are, in all actuality, monsters.
Ultimately, the hero is the one who is capable of seeing beyond the collective fear and takes the necessary steps.
More than that, the hero is the one who risks everything if it turns out that the monsters are, in fact, monsters.
The hero must face uncertainty, too. Otherwise we could not identify with our heroes and they could not identify with us. So in our stories, too, we must find those moments where there is nothing to do but wait.
It is the storyteller’s responsibility to make sure that we feel the uncertainty.
When the beast approaches the teller should speed up. The urgency of the tale should match the urgency of the moment. We should hear that quickened step, that beating heart.
But then, at that crucial moment, that terrifying moment when all becomes clear the storyteller should slow.
Hero, monster, audience, and storyteller should join together here, in this moment.