What Kind of Story Are You In?

One of my favourite movies, and most blogged about, is Stranger Than Fiction.

The main character, Harold, finds himself living a narrated life. He literally hears a voice telling him what he’s doing, what he’s thinking and what he’s going to do. Harold turns to a psychiatrist for help. The psychiatrist sends Harold to an English professor after Harold rejects the initial diagnosis that he is schizophrenic. The psychiatrist reasons that the voice of a narrator means Harold is in a story and an English Lit professor would be able to help him sort out what it all means.

I’m fascinated by this movie because I think it reveals a basic framework for understanding our lives.

Shakespeare suggested all the world’s a stage and we are only players on that stage. We come, we go, entrances, exits but the stage is the real constant.

I prefer the story metaphor. It makes me part of the greater book. And those that have come before me aren’t just history but their story actually informs my story. I am a continuation.

But what kind of story am I in? I talk with people fairly often who seem to be tragedies. Once in a while I run into an adventure story. I’ve been involved, as a wedding officiate, in some classic love stories. I know a few comedies. But, like Harold, I’m trying to piece together just what kind of story I’m in.

Here’s a little dialogue from the film. It’s from a scene between Harold and Dr. Hilbert, the Lit Prof.

Dr. Jules Hilbert: I’ve devised a test. How exciting is that? Composed of 23 questions which I think might help uncover more truths about this narrator. Now Howard… Harold, these may seem silly but your candor is paramount.
Harold Crick: Ok.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: So. We know it’s a woman’s voice. The story involves your death. It’s modern. It’s in English and I’m assuming the author has a cursory knowledge of the city.
Harold Crick: Sure.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: O.k. good. Question one. Has anyone recently left any gifts outside your home? Anything. Gum, money, a large wooden horse.
Harold Crick: I’m sorry?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Just answer the question.
Harold Crick: No.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Do you find yourself inclined to solve murder mysteries in large luxurious homes to which you, let me finish, to which you may or may not have been invited?
Harold Crick: No. No, no, no.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Alright. On a scale of one to ten, what would you consider the likelihood you might be assassinated?
Harold Crick: Assassinated?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: One being very unlikely ten being expecting it around every corner.
Harold Crick: I have no idea.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: O.k. let me rephrase.
[takes a deep breath]
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Are you the king of anything?
Harold Crick: Like what?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Anything. King of the lanes at the local bowling alley.
Harold Crick: King of the lanes?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: King of the lanes, king of the trolls,
Harold Crick: King of the Trolls?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Yes, uh uh uh a clandestine land found underneath your floor boards.
Harold Crick: No.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Huh?
Harold Crick: No. That’s ridiculous.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Agreed. Let’s start with ridiculous and move backwards. Now, was any part of you at one time part of something else?
Harold Crick: Like do I have someone else’s arms?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Well is it possible at one time that you were made of stone, wood, lye, varied corpse parts? Or, earth made holy by rabbinical elders?
Harold Crick: No. Look, look. I’m sorry, but what do these questions have to do with anything?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Nothing. The only way to find out what story you’re in is to determine what stories you’re not in. Odd as it may seem, I’ve just ruled out half of Greek literature, seven fairy tales, ten Chinese fables, and determined conclusively that you are not King Hamlet, Scout Finch, Miss Marple, Frankenstein’s Monster, or a golem. Hmm? Aren’t you relieved to know you’re not a golem?
Harold Crick: Yes. I am relieved to know that I am not a golem.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Good. Do you have magical powers?

The thing with being in a story is that what happens next matters. My chapter can’t change the whole book but it can greatly affect the next few chapters that immediately follow. If I’m not living my chapter right the Author may have to go to great lengths to get things back on track for the ending as written.

Some of us are gifted to never wonder what kind of story we’re in. Or it seems like a gift to me because I can’t imagine how a person can not wonder. Taking life as it comes has its’ advantages but truth be told, I like being engaged in the process. I’m slowly giving up my illusions of control but like Harold, I don’t want to miss the moments, the other characters I’m supposed to interact with, the richness of life that comes from knowing that this moment or that moment really does matter and to stay in that moment, squeeze every drop of experience out of it and not be in such a rush to turn the page.

What kind of story are you in? Is there a character you’re feeling the need to have more dialog with? Is there some foreshadowing from a previous chapter you feel clouds your future? Do you feel like a 3 dimensional character or is life feeling pretty much one note and monochrome at the moment? Who are you sharing your story with?


About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in Books, Christianity, death, denial, getting old, God, hollywood, Life, Meaning, perception, questions, Reflective, story, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to What Kind of Story Are You In?

  1. a comedy. i’m definitely in a comedy (sometimes a “black” comedy)…perhaps with a bit of adventure mixed in. My story is definitely NOT in the romantic comedy or love story category (unfortunately); i’m glad it’s not a drama…or a thriller for that matter; and i’m wishing it had a bit more action. 😉

  2. Judy says:

    My own individual story? It parallels frighteningly with Disney’s “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.” Captured through no fault of his own, beaten down, spurred and ridden, refusing to give in, refusing to let his wounds show to his captors. Lashing out at them, breaking free (or so he thought). Finding love in unexpected places. Through circumstances beyond his control, betrayed by the very life and love he’d chosen and which had chosen him. Sinking in discouragement and despair. Hearing the still small voice and having hope renewed. Rescued, and rescuing out of gratitude to the rescuer. Then freed by the rescuer to face the new challenges of a life “wild at heart.”

    All of my life, all the parts of my life, are somewhere along those story lines, some nearer the beginning, others nearing the end, still others struggling along somewhere in the middle.

    Through it all is the unmistakable call in the darkness, somewhere in the distance, growing ever stronger: “Remember who you are.” (from the song by Bryan Adams, “Sound the Bugle.”)

  3. Michelle says:

    I have three thoughts:

    First off, I watch like, 3 rented movies a year and we actually watched this movie a few months ago. I loved it!

    Second, the first thing that came to mind when I read your blog title was the whole “living a better story” theme from Donald Miller.

    Third, I have absolutely no idea what kind of story I’m in, but I’m praying that it gets better with age.

    • brianmpei says:

      My 3 part reply.

      I buy 2 movies per year and this was one of them. I watch it again and again. Rare for me and movies.

      Second, I have been turning the house upside down looking for my Donald Miller book by that name and can’t find it.

      Third, it does.

      • Michelle says:

        I’m bummed about missing out on the “Searching For God Knows What” group. Too much going on at once. I think it will be a great group. I haven’t read anything by Miller but I do read his blog occasionally.

  4. TJ says:

    Not sure what story I’m in , but I’m pretty sure I’m Rose, from the Golden Girls…
    I get all the points of what people are saying to me, but when I connect the dots the picture is a little bit different….
    I like it that way….life’s much more interesting…

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