The Timelessness of Stories

FlowersOnLedgeThe death of Alan Rickman got me to thinking about stories, and how important they are, in so many ways, to us all.

Everyone loves a good story, whether it’s one that’s been written down, acted out, or told.  Stories are one of the oldest forms of entertainment.  They’re endlessly flexible, and though the core of them has never changed (good vs. evil, love, etc), the way they are told does reflect the times.  Fiction has a way of holding up a mirror to what’s important in society.

Alan Rickman was a wonderful actor who played a myriad of parts, though he’s perhaps best known for his villains.  His death has led others to speak out about what a wonderful man and friend he was as well, something I didn’t give much thought to before his death.  To me he was Snape, Hans Gruber, the Metatron, the Sherrif of Nottingham, and so many other characters.

That’s the power that stories have.  Stories transport us from our everyday lives, and have the ability to speak truths more profound than if they were plainly stated.  There’s a reason why artists of every kind are important to a society, and why the stories they tell, if told well, overshadow the writer, the actor, the teller.  The tale is what’s important, and if told well, becomes alive.

Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813.  That’s over 200 years ago.  Yet there have been dozens of movie and TV adaptations of it.  Most recently, a parody novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has been published and will be made into a movie.  The story takes the classic version and adds our currently cultural obsession.  There have been countless adaptations and spinoffs.  The story is timeless, and both Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are characters with lives of their own.  They’re not just names on paper; they’re living, breathing, people.  They’ve lived 200 years, and it’s unlikely that they’ll ever die.

I expect that Harry Potter will be the same way.  In our movie age, though, it’s likely that the books and the movies will always be merged, to an extent.  Who can picture Severus Snape without picturing Alan Rickman?  I can’t.  Will Alan Rickman still be Professor Snape 200 years from now?  Only time will tell, of course, but I’d like to believe that even if the movies are redone decades from now with fresh faces, Alan Rickman will always be the Snape that others are measured against.

There’s nothing I love better than a good story.  I want to be transported to different times and places.  I want to live inside someone else’s head for a little while, see through their eyes.  I love to talk to others about their stories, or the stories they love, or the stories they don’t love, and why.

I don’t want to hear about the weather; I want to hear about how the sun baked your skin, why you use sunblock (or don’t), what you think about vampires, and about whether or not you dance in the rain.

I don’t want to watch you use your cell phone while we’re at dinner; I want to hear about the last really great meal you had, whether or not you think you should have dessert first (because life’s short), whether or not you think that cell phones are secretly used by the government to listen to me talk about the weather, and how you use your phone to stay in touch with the people who are most important to you.

In other words, I’d rather hear you say something absurd than something mundane.  We’re all so in the habit of having safe conversations that we don’t say the really interesting things we’re thinking.  I’m wondering if people even have interesting thoughts anymore, or if cat videos are the current highlight of human insight.

Smile at me.  Say something absurd.  Tell me a story.


Knowing Too Much Can Take Away The Magic

I re-watched the original Sabrina tonight.  It’s got Humphrey Bogart, William Holden and Audrey Hepburn, two wonderful actors.  I can’t remember last time I saw that version of it.  I think I like the more modern version with Harrison Ford, Greg Kinnear, and Julia Ormond a bit better.

I did enjoy the movie, and then I did what I always do… I went to the Internet Movie Database to look up trivia about the movie.  Usually, there are fun facts such as other actors who were considered for the part or something about the place it was filmed.  For this particular movie, the trivia talks about how Humphrey Bogart didn’t like his two fellow actors, and that he thought Audrey Hepburn couldn’t act.

Maybe it was true… or maybe Humphrey Bogart was a jerk, but either way, it sort of takes the magic away.  I was left a little deflated, some of my enjoyment of the movie gone.  Authors often get asked where they get their ideas, and I wonder if people really want to know, or if they just want to be part of the magic.

Let’s face it; for those of us who write, it’s no secret where we get our ideas.  Everywhere.  From everything.  Yes, for me it is the Holy Grail of writing when an idea pops into my head fully formed, and it does happen sometimes.  But more often, I’ll be in the middle of a conversation or going somewhere and think, “Hey, what if…?”

Finding ideas can be hard work, but it can also be fun and satisfying to develop and nurture the seeds of an idea into a fully grown flower.  Or, in my case, a twisted misshapen Venus flytrap type object that might bite you if you get too close.  Hey… to each his own!