a story doesn't just wear one hat, and other dumb metaphors

There are so many rules and primers for how to tell good and effective stories, but for the sake of this writing I think we should acknowledge that "bad" stories, despite whatever flaws or structural issues, are still stories. With that in mind, the simple answer is that a story is a shared account of events that may or may not have happened.

I do, of course, recognize that some stories have more staying power than others, and it's hard to argue that there isn't a certain amount of craft to making a story that can effectively wield that power. I don't know how universal it is, but the famously transphobic JK Rowling, for example, took the principles from Joseph Campbell's monomyth and made a story that, for all its numerous flaws and outright failures, became one of the most popular in the world. I personally find Kurt Vonnegut, with his clarity of speech and his background in academics and journalism, to be a very "workmanlike" writer, and he's moved me to tears of laughter and sadness. Terry Pratchett's books play out like little movies in my head, and always have great parallels to our own world that make his satirical and often cartoonish fantasies more human and grounded than a lot of "harder" fiction. There are plenty of ways to successfully structure a story.

Personally, the stories that have stayed with me haven't necessarily always adhered to any specific structural style, but I connect to them in some way that makes me want to revisit them or otherwise keep them close. To me, stories can be a fun escape, but they're also reflective of ideas that I identify with, or otherwise contribute something that lets my mind play on its own. I'm not sure the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy really ends on solid ground as a single novella or as a series (maybe because the earlier books are essentially adapted radio-plays?), but it's probably one of my most-revisited and beloved books. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is widely regarded as one of the greatest comedy films of all time, and it just...ends. Here are the last 45 seconds of Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Someone once told me they didn't enjoy a movie because they didn't understand what the director was "trying to tell" them. Even when discounting the fact that films are made by tens or even hundreds of people beside the director, I found this assertion from them disturbing because to me, the audience is just as important as the author when it comes to story. You and I could read the same book and experience something completely different, and both our interpretations could be a complete departure from the author's intent, but ultimately something special and alchemical will have happened at that intersection of writer and reader, and that's the part I'm interested in: the connection.

Okay, so real quick: I don't know how many of you remember MIDI files, but before MP3s were a thing, if you wanted to listen to, say, "Bohemian Rhapsody," you downloaded what was essentially the size of a text file, and it sounded pretty synth-y and rooty-tooty. This is because MIDIs were essentially text files with instructions for software that interpreted and played it back with synth instruments that were included on your computer's sound card. No lyrics, no recorded anything, because a recorded song would have been way too big to fit on a floppy disk or send over what the kids in Degrassi: the Next Generation unironically referred to as the 'Net.

Bohemian Rhapsody MIDI

Yeah, that's what it sounded like. Welcome to the 90s. I listened to that entire thing just now on purpose.

It sounded more or less like "Bohemian Rhapsody," which is itself a kind of story that probably means a bunch of different things, depending on, for example, whether or not you've seen Wayne's World, but that's a story for another time.

On its own, a MIDI is a pretty complicated bit of writing, but without the right software to play that back, you get the following:

A MIDI file opened in Notepad "I'm not sure what the director of this MIDI is trying to tell me."

Alright, that wasn't quick at all, was it.

Stories are things you can craft as mechanically as you like, or that you can imbue with your own life and personality, but your readers ultimately make the music play based on the instructions you leave them, and that's why stories are cool.

I swear this isn't a Destiny blog

I'm in the poetry part of my creative writing class, and I wrote a villainous villanelle from the perspective of the Witch Queen herself, Savathûn.

I've never written a villanelle before, and I think I may have fudged a couple rhymes, and also it's probably the nerdiest thing I've ever produced, but I'm pretty proud of it.

A villainous villanelle from the perspective of the Witch Queen herself, Savathûn

The last time I wrote what could be considered fanfic, I don't really know if the term even existed yet. I was maybe sixteen and writing a continuation of the story from Descent 2. I guess I like adding to game stories that can be shortened to D2.

Boredom isn't always bad.

A year ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD, which in retrospect should have been no surprise, but when I was a kid, my mom would have preferred to have a carpenter ant up her peehole than admit to a complete stranger that her offspring was anything less than perfect. Like most kids, I had huge swaths of free time, especially since I wasn't squandering them on tedious things like homework, and as such, I was very good at filling that empty space with reading, writing, and drawing. When I built my first computer, I used it to learn how to edit audio and abuse photoshop. When the high school got wired internet and I had missed enough homework to feel too guilty to show up to class, I spent all my time in the computer lab, teaching myself HTML and building my first website.

As a kid, I always said that boring people get bored, and that there was always something to keep me entertained, even if it meant writing script in my head to type out later. I realize now that I was bored all the time, and I was channeling that boredom into these creative pursuits that seem unfathomable to me now, when I can barely sit still long enough to learn GDScript or Lua, or to write, or to draw, or animate, or make music, or any of the creative pursuits that are so important to me. I'm an unemployed part-time student with even more free time than I had as a child, and I can't seem to get anything done. Why is that?

I've gotten so good at filling my spare time with distractions, that any time I don't spend doing what I have to do, I burn away doing anything I can to leave my mind and body and be somewhere else, whether it's video games, pooping around on the internet, or, well, that's really most of it. Check this out:

I've spent literally thousands of hours as a space wizard in the Destiny universe.

This is the cumulative time I've spent as a space wizard in the Destiny universe, and is only one of a number of games I've played over the past several years, and holy living fuck, that is a lot of hours going into one thing.

To be clear, I'm not saying "rrgh video games bad;" I obviously love the dang things or I wouldn't be trying to make them. I do, however, think that I have become adept at filling my time with never-ending escapes from reality, to the point that I am not spending nearly as much time doing the other things that I want to do, which may happen to be a bit more challenging than fighting the Darkness et al.

Okay, so I've also been depressed, and even before the pandemic I was isolated from my friends, having moved states twice in the past few years. So much of the active part of my life has been driven by other people. It's not their fault; I get that from a childhood spent feeding a narcissist. It's led to a bad habit of trying to stay out of my own head by filling my spare time with...stuff. Destiny in particular has been a welcome distraction in that sense, and served as a way to connect with some of my friends in a virtual space, but mostly, I've been grinding alone and hiding from myself. I'm not going to be mean to myself about it; I could've done far worse than getting fat while fighting digital monsters with space magic. It's not, however, doing me any favors. I need to be making things more, because that's what gives me life, what brings me joy.

Now, I didn't expect to get into the rougher parts of my specific situation in the course of writing this, but I guess that's part of the joy of ADHD: the tangents. My point in all this is that we've all gotten really good at filling every free moment with whatever we can. We're all chasing the dopamine, and we all carry a dispenser in our pockets now, among other places. It's easier than ever to avoid being bored, but abundance doesn't necessarily equate to quality, and boredom isn't always bad.

The way out of my rut is boredom.

I have to accept those silences back into my life, for the sake of my creativity, if not my sanity. It turns out that motivation is as as unreliable as inspiration, and it's taken me 40 years to arrive here.

Better late than never.