A good story meets you in the midst of life. It tells you something true, something you can relate to. It abducts you. It takes your heart unexpectedly. It gives you the breath of another life as a character in the fairy tale. It becomes a reality you dream is yours. It paints a world you cannot quite touch. It draws you in with emotion and connection, love and heartbreak, familiarity and fantasy. That is when you know it is a great story.
A good story is something that captures you in another world. The brilliant art of story is to create a trusting bond between writer and reader. One allows the other to steal him away to another kingdom beyond what can be seen. The story takes root in your psyche and brings up a new story within. It no longer is a story on the pages, written by another. The story is no longer his, or hers, it becomes yours. That is when you are in for a great story.
Yet, a good story does not leave you alone. It will challenge your perceptions and your assumptions about all the worlds in which you live. It should take you from the comfort of your expectations and open a new world of possibilities, sadness, anticipation, experience, disaster and joy. But the worst stories are those that are predictable.
When a story becomes predictable, it has lost all the wonder and surprise that inspires the heart and mind. When a story become predictable the otherworld magic dissipates. The story no longer is about far reaching realities and explorations of unknown paths, but rather, just the same old ending you already saw coming.
Left to ourselves, a story will play out in our hearts and minds exactly as we think it should. A story of love and heartbreak that is expected. A story of trials and failure that is expected. A story of friendship and betrayal that is expected. The same problem, the anticipated solution, and the anti-climactic expected resolution. This is the great tragedy of story: When it becomes exactly what you expected it to be.
What a sad story that cannot rejuvenate our imagination and only echoes what we have repeated tirelessly in our minds. What a terrible story that cannot transport us from the mundane rubble of stagnant beliefs. What a glorious story, then, that will stimulate our understandings in a twist of surprising conclusions. What a meaningful story, then, that can enlighten us to greater truths, more than our expectations.
The greatest of stories gently calls us by name and sweetly endears our hearts. It finds us where we are at and blends story and reality together. But this great story will soon assault. Whether a surprising turn of events or a moral dilemma, the greatest of stories must suddenly smash our world to pieces. Unexpectedly, we hang on, hope, believe, and trust in more of the story to come. But we will quickly default to our own path out of the story, to resolution. We grasp for the predictable route to keep us safe and sound. But the greatest of stories will not let us have our way with it. The resolution belongs to the great story, crucifying your expectation, raising up a refined perception. The greatest of stories is magnificently unpredictable every time.