It was a dark and stormy night
You know what I don't like about stories? They have beginnings.
Stories are utterly irresponsible in their propensity to start somewhere. They have that moment when the hero realizes: It's all gone horribly wrong, life as we know it has changed, we are on a journey we did not anticipate, and Something Has To Be Done.
What happens next, of course, is up to the story teller. One does not simply walk into Mordor; one must traverse 1100 pages first. Or, one might compress a lifetime of ache into six brutally awesome words: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. (Hemingway, you bastard...)
Beginnings. I hate them.
And you think you know why, I can tell. You think this is a writer bitching about writer's block. You think this is the pain of the proverbial blank white sheet of paper no one actually stares at anymore in the antiquated typewriter no one uses anymore now that we're all WYSIWYG'd up. You think this is personal.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
I hate beginnings because they train audiences to believe in…well…beginnings. They train audiences to seek the moments in life that are the signs that Something Has To Be Done, which — ironically — tends to lead to Nothing Getting Done.
Ever watched The Biggest Loser? You must at least be familiar with the set-up. Twenty-or-so morbidly obese contestants are selected to compete in a reality-show following their daily experiences in a California health-and-wellness compound (or, as it would have been known in less politically correct days, a 'fat farm'). High drama, lots of shouting, personal demons, tears, confessional interviews to camera, and tense string music before we cut to commercial.
I genuinely can't determine if it's the worst thing on TV or the best. Is it terrific that a network is proving to its audience that it's never too late to turn your life around, or is it horrific that we live in a country where the gladiators' arena has been replaced by a multi-million dollar game show where the heros aspire to see their own feet for the first time since high school?
In either case, the real point is I hate that it has a beginning. Thousands of applicants in desperate need of a life-changing experience apply to the producers. A handful are selected. Their journey begins. We applaud their commitment. We hope for their determination in the face of adversity. We cheer their success.
Lucky bastards that they are. They were given a beginning.
And the thousands who didn't get selected…? Yeah.
I hate that stories have beginnings, that people relate to stories, and that they are waiting for their own stories to begin. I hate that people expect life to happen to them. And I especially hate the anger, frustration, and bitterness that ensues when it does.
I hate that people are trained by stories to believe that their own stories are due a happy ending. That it will all work out. That they can't understand why it isn't all working out. That they can't understand why their lives aren't more like works of fiction.
I hate that people would rather watch their own lives than live them.
I hate that people are so convinced of the infallibility of the story structure that they believe — if only they ever actually do manage to begin — that it will all be butterflies and zebras and moonbeams by the last commercial break.
I hate that people spend so much time waiting for their own story to begin, they djust don’t how close they are to