What's Your Story?

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You are surrounded by stories.

Aside from the films, TV shows and books of swashbuckling derring-do, and crazed maniacs who want to rule the world (BWAHAHAHA) you’re constantly telling yourself a story. The story of your own life.

It’s quite engrossing, although mostly at a subconscious level, because you’re the writer and the hero (or anti-hero) of your own tale. Every event that happens to you is interpreted in the light of the narrative. And you already have a sense of how the story ends.

In this movie of your life, you’re in charge of the narrative. Of course you may have written into your script that you’re not in charge. You may have written into your script that God is in charge, that your parents or pastor is in charge. Or Satan. You may have written yourself as the hapless victim of fate. But you wrote it.

Good stories feature flawed heroes,

Can I encourage you to step off the stage for a moment and look around behind the scenes? If you can step away from the dazzling lights and the sweeping arc of the storyline you might be able to see the props you’re relying on to sustain the narrative.

And just perhaps, you might want to introduce a plot twist or more character development. Good stories feature flawed heroes, but the great stories see them confront their demons, and transform. Characters who don’t change make for very boring storylines.

Questions about your production of “My Life”

Which part have you cast yourself in?

The nice guy who comes last.

The entertainer.

The artist.

The heroine who rescues everyone around her because no-one else is going to do it.

The man cast down from greatness by ill-health.

The misunderstood sufferer of adversity’s slings and arrows.

The pioneer.

The average Joe.

The failure.

The charmer.

The tortoise who wins out against the hare.

The Goldilocks who tries to fit in, but can only gain acceptance in illegal activity.

What have you picked for a soundtrack?

What music do you like to listen to? Is it melancholic, rebellious, energetic, spiritual? What does this tell you about your production?

What genre have you picked for your story?

Maybe a romance, or a horror, or one of those literary novels where nothing much happens, but all is deeply felt.

What costume and make-up are you wearing?

Why is your character dressed like that?

What does your budget go on?

What scenes are you trying to set?

What are your essential props?

These are ideas about yourself, rather than things you use. What about all those dusty old beliefs from your childhood - are they constantly tripping you up? Or are there childhood heirlooms and family treasures that have been overlooked by the grown-up you of cares and duties?

The world’s a stage

The world tells us stories. It tells us stories about what is worth while, what makes you a success. What suffering is. What it’s ok to laugh at and what it’s not. Jesus tells us stories about what matters and what doesn’t.

And you tell yourself stories. You do. They may be so buried in your subconscious that you can’t even hear them any more – you may have become the method actor who is so engrossed in the tale he acts the part 24 hours a day. You might want to step outside of the role for 5 minutes and grab a burger. Get a breather.

The reason I want to ask about your story is because it might not really be your story after all.

Typecasting

The reason I want to ask about your story is because it might not really be your story after all.

You may have been typecast because of the mini-series you’ve been born into: the family saga. Maybe your father was the lonely misanthrope who felt undervalued by his peers, despite being smarter than most of them. Watch out for this: that instead of seeking your own plot, you’re performing an adaptation of his story.

Sure, the world and significant people in your life (parents, pastors, teachers, spouses, siblings) have handed you some scripts they think you should follow. They may be stories great or grim, but you still get to decide which lines to cut, which ones to add in.

It’s hard to break out of thought patterns that have been established since early childhood. (I’m the responsible one, I’m the beautiful one, I’m the stupid one). But the first step is to recognize them.

What do you believe about yourself that you think will never change? (I will always be anxious, I will always be shy, I will always be angry I will never be truly loved.) Do you want to re-write these lines?

Improv.

Yes, God is in charge of the universe. But he’s a very alternative kind of director. He has some script suggestions for you, but they’re to bring the very best out of you. He’s happy to improvise. He likes spontaneity. He doesn’t want you trapped in a cycle of thinking that takes you down a plug-hole, or even down a rabbit hole that belongs to another Alice. You’re not a victim of circumstances; write your way out of it. Give your character a shake-up, and choose a different line of response to the usual one. You have free will. If you learn how to use it, under the director’s encouragement, you’re going to create an epic.

Editing suite

You are, most likely, way more than your current story allows for.

Ask the Holy Spirit to take you into the editing suite. What needs to be cut to make more room for plot or character development?

Until you’re aware of the script you’re following, you can’t change it. Have a close look and you can see where your script has become unoriginal – where you keep repeating the same storylines. Where your character is just turning into your mother or father. Where there are lines in your dialogue that keep repeating. Where you keep choosing the same support cast, over and over again, even though they do your main character no good at all.

Listen to your heart. What songs do you wake up with going round your head?

Which characters in films, TV or books do you most connect to? What makes you angry? What stirs you? Why?

Take a step into the editing suite. Trust the film editor, he’s excellent at his job. He’ll help you keep the good and cut the bad. It’ll free you up to make some radical changes. Surprise the viewers.

Don’t settle for a nondescript script when your story can be one-of-a-kind.

So tell me, what’s your story?