The Story With a Hole
In elementary school I was part of the ALPHA program. Every day, I'd spend about 45 minute in a different classroom, engaging in mind games and critical thinking with about six or seven other students in my grade. My ALPHA teacher was Mrs. Ellenor Holland, who to this day remains one of my favorite teachers.
My favorite activity in ALPHA was always the "Stories With Holes" that Mrs. Holland would read to us. For those unfamiliar, "Stories With Holes" are basically stories that have established beginning circumstances, and definitive finale. The game, then, is to find out how the story got from A to B by asking yes and no questions.
It's sort of like if Memento was made into several books and then given to kids to try to figure out the story before Christopher Nolan tells you.
There is one story that has stuck with me since I first heard it, partially because it was a little disturbing to ten year old me, and partially because it was one of the first "Stories With Holes" I ever guessed the answer on. It goes something like this:
"The police were called to investigate an apparent suicide. The man in question was found hanging from a noose about three or more feet off the ground in a warehouse that had nothing in it except for a puddle of water. The police had to knock down the door to get in to the warehouse as it had been locked from the inside. There were no other entrances or exits. How did the man die?"
Grim, I know.
I'll get to the answer at the end, but I'm sure several of you bright folks will get there before me.
The point of me bringing up this incredibly random, incomplete story about stories is that it reminds me a little of what it feels like when I create; I begin with this spark about the thing that I want to create, and that spark often brings the finale of the story with it.
For instance, when I started to conceive the idea of my F3, I knew I wanted it to be a story about two sisters, and I knew that, in the end, they would both survive the tale.
I just had no idea how that would happen or what events would have to have taken place for that conclusion to be true. Kind of like how I initially had no idea how the man died in the story with the hole.
Now I'm about to do an incredibly reckless thing and expose what I conceive to be my weakness as a writer and the gigantic flaw with this system of creating.
By starting with the circumstances surrounding the story and the end of the story, I completely close myself off to any possibilities that bloom organically from the story and the characters. Instead of asking questions like in the "Stories With Holes" game, I command the characters and show them the path I want them to take from A to B. It is a rigid system lacking of life.
I forfeit the inherent creative intuition for logic and God-playing. The characters become pawns that have absolutely no control or say over their fate.
This is not the art I want to create.
The art I want to create sprouts and unfolds painfully like a flower in a meadow, without coaxing.
I just felt like sharing this revelation I'm having and that I am not the artist I want to be yet. But, make no mistake: I am an artist.
Oh, and the man in the story was standing on a block of ice that melted.