Our story begins with the main character pouring out his thoughts over a computer. He can’t help but feel his words and ideas would somehow sound so much more sophisticated, maybe even romantic, if he was pecking away at a typewriter but he regrettably got rid of his decades ago. With an E-cig between his lips (again – modern times) and his 4th Basil Hayden on the rocks sitting next to him he pours out his heart and mind to the cold dead circuitry in front of him instead of a human being. And why shouldn’t he? This non personal piece of shit hardware is the source of over half his communications with the rest of the world. How is speaking directly to it instead of through it any different? Besides who really wants to listen? Who wants to listen to the thoughts, ideas, bitches, moans, and woes of a privileged white male that seemingly has it all?
As he sits and types he wonders where this is even going. Why is he writing in the first place? He felt compelled to write but now that he has a pseudo audience what does he really have to say? What does anyone really have to say he wonders when they can say anything they want? As he puffs his e-cig and takes another pull from his bourbon he can hear the waves from the ocean pounding the cliff just a 100 feet away. It’s warm outside so the windows and doors are open and he can smell the cool ocean scent in the air. He begins to write his story.
Our story is about a man – our main character. We can’t just call him “the main character” though so we need to call him something. John Doe. We’ll call him John. The interesting thing here is John is both the protagonist and the antagonist. There are no external outside forces just John’s actions and subsequent reactions and consequences. John is both our hero and our enemy. So what’s the plot? Where is our story arc? What is John’s journey, question, destination, purpose? That’s it – purpose. Our story is about John’s struggle and search for purpose in life.
Purpose is a tricky thing. It’s not something that’s taught. When you’re young purpose is decided for you. That is if you’re lucky. As you grow up this sense of purpose is supposed to eventually be learned and become inherent. Sure there’s always that weird in between stage of rebellion, then the period of thinking you’re an adult and have purpose, usually followed by another stage of rebellion and fuck ups, and then eventually settling back down. Before they know it most people have grown up, are living their lives as functioning adults, and working towards some purpose. For many it’s a career, or a family, or their faith. For most it’s a combination. What bothers John is he is well past the age of when he should have “grown up” and found his purpose…except that he hasn’t.
John’s life doesn’t suck – let’s not be confused here. In fact by most standards John’s life is pretty fucking awesome. He’s always been successful with his jobs (career sounds painfully grown up and permanent), travels the world, parties entirely too hard, manages incredible feats, is rich in friendship, and has experiences relatively few people on this earth will ever know. John is healthy, intelligent, funny, witty, smooth, attractive, fit…and mostly happy. John is capable of handling anything life throws at him. So where is our conflict? Every story needs conflict yet we have no antagonist and no external forces of nature acting against John. That’s our conflict and that’s our story. If John is our hero then what is his journey?
Every hero saga has 3 parts: the call to adventure, the crucible/trial, and the return. Our story must not start at the beginning then because John has quite clearly already answered the call to adventure. In fact John is clearly in the thick of the crucible stage. Is it even fair to call it that? Sure he has friends dropping dead left and right but he chose this life and continues to do so. The lifestyle, the crazy adventures, the women, the booze, the drugs – it’s all by choice. Can one really say they suffered trials if it was of their own accord? What if one continues to do so with no end in sight? Is this the conflict? That John is his own worst enemy and keeps putting himself through trial after trial all the while seeking some glorified return home? Handling – no – thriving with and loving whatever life hands him but at the same time searching for the next step. Searching for something just out of sight in the darkness. He’s not sure it’s even there – it’s fleeting – but he catches glimpses of it every now and then so he continues searching. Searching for what? An end? The only way anyone ever truly wants a story to end is happily ever after. Therefore John’s struggle, his conflict, his trial, is to find happily ever after.
So you see we’ve got a bigger problem now. What if John doesn’t believe in happily ever after? He doesn’t necessarily not believe in it…but it doesn’t always happen that way. Just because everyone wants a story to end that way doesn’t mean it always will. Sometimes there really aren’t any stars to be found in the darkness. So John’s journey is to find happily ever after even though he doesn’t know if that exists for him.
This is our conflict – our story arc. These are the trials and tribulations of John and his attempt at finding happily ever after – if it exists. Along the way he will be tried, he will experience amazing things, he’ll laugh, he’ll cry, he’ll fall in love, and he’ll be brought to his knees. He will continue taking on the world one day at a time hoping that one day things will change. That something or someone will show him the way. That he doesn’t always have to be reacting and instead he can just be. Until one day, just maybe, he can find happily ever after. Maybe it’s a private island, maybe it’s a spouse or partner in crime, maybe it’s a home with kids a picket fence and a dog, or maybe it’s death. Until then he’ll just follow Joe Dirt’s advice and “keep on keepin on.” It’s not such a bad life after-all, and a lifestyle is a terrible thing to waste.
Our writer blows out the vapor from his e-cig as he reads what he just wrote. He can’t help but see himself mirrored in his story but that’s what happens when you sit down to write three sheets to the wind. As he downs the last of his whiskey he thinks if he had written this on a typewriter at least he’d have the satisfaction of ripping out the page and tearing it to shreds.