On the first day of my literary journalism class, the professor asked what our dream situation twenty years from now was. He emphasized that for this particular question, he wanted the pure dream situation- no thought for practicality or difficulty, no restraint of likelihood.
That’s a tough one to tackle at 8:00am.
I said that I wanted to be a successful fiction writer, one who was well-known and respected as such. But had I been more awake, I would have had more details as to what I wanted for my life twenty years from now to be. However the question did get me thinking, and after some thought I think I’m able to give a more coherent answer than “Best-selling novelist!!”
So here’s what my vaulting ambition would ideally bring me in twenty years, hopefully without the side effects it had for Macbeth.
- Good storytelling
I want the stories I tell to be good- and I want their presentation to be of equal quality. This means that not only will I craft a story that is engaging and thought-provoking, with complex characters and themes, but I want the words and the mechanics of my language to be nothing short of spectacular. I want the images to resonate. I want people to quote the passages I write. I want professors analyzing my chapters for the impact of the diction and flow of the sentences. Twenty years from now I would like people to look at the first stories I published and say that they are still worth reading.
But if that fails, twenty years from now I, at least, want to look back at the things I’ve written without shame. Even though in some ways it’s too late for that- I find myself very embarrassed when I see older blog entries, never mind older stories- I can still find good kernels in the rotten shell of inexperienced writing. Despite the poor quality of my metaphors and my unintentionally hysterical dialogue, I can still look at my older stories and say “There was something there that was good.”
If I can still say that of my current work twenty years from now, I’ll be content. If other people do the same, I’ll be ecstatic.
- Good stories
When I discover a book/play/television show/movie that’s really good, I’ll ramble about it to as many people as I can until someone forcibly puts a sock in my mouth or until the unlucky person finally agrees to go and check out whatever I was so enthusiastically praising. (This is part of the reason I started this blog.) If I come across a story with a brilliant world populated by great characters, I make sure people know about it. And if that story is told well, I make sure to bring it up at the first possible opportunity.
I would like my stories to have this effect on the people who discover them. But if this
world takeover plan doesn’t happen in twenty years, I’d like the next best thing- I’d just like people to read them because they really, really want to.
After all when it comes to books, television, and films, these are things that people ideally will consume in their spare time, which we’re having increasingly less of as our culture gets busier and busier. So if someone decides that my stories are a good way to fill their spare hours, I’ll be more than happy to have written them.
- Memorable Stories
Part of the reasons I like books so much is that I often think about the words and the decision to include or not include a certain conversation or detail. I love that a whole world can somehow be shown through ink on paper, and becoming immersed in a story is one of my favorite things in the world. But for a good story, I want more than to lose myself in the story.
I want the story to stay with me, long after I’ve left the confines of a theater or a page. And if my own stories can do that to those who read them, I’ll be happy. I want the characters I conjure and the worlds I build to stick in someone’s head. I remember when I was a child how badly I wanted to go to Middle-Earth (and how annoyed I was that there was no Narnia-like magic to take me there). I’d like for my worlds to have that same lingering pull, leaving readers and watchers with a vague sense of loss that the worlds within them can’t be reached.
And if people think about my stories and how they could apply to reality, that would be the best thing I could hope for. I want to touch upon some greater truths in my fiction, even when those deeper things are dressed up in literally outlandish clothes. If I can touch upon something greater that will have impact twenty years from now, I’ll be satisfied.
If I can talk about the world- or any world- in such a way that people hundreds of years from now can still access it, that’ll be a dream come true.