Whenever I finish a book I always have a short break where I read a few others, some from authors that are similar, some that aren’t at all; but always ones that are popular. What I notice from the literary world is that (sweeping generalization warning) my chosen genre seem intent on writing the big story, the all encompassing thriller that takes you round the world and involves world leaders, international conspiracies, MI5, SO15, the SAS and the end of the world as we know it.
As part of my day job I get inspired by the small stories. We are all a story; you are, I am, your day today had a beginning, a middle and will have an ending and it may be entirely insignificant, just another Monday; or it may change your life forever. You’ve probably interacted with, or at least walked/driven past hundreds, maybe thousands of people today and that means you’ve taken some sort of part in their story and who knows, maybe you’ve even influenced the ending.
I once drove a man to a mental health unit who had suffered a severe breakdown and ordered a bottle of water in a shop with which he was going to swallow a fatal amount of the pain killers he had loose in his jacket pocket. The man next to him could tell he was agitated and upset and offered to buy him a coffee instead. There was no further interaction between them but that gesture of kindness was enough that he didn’t swallow the pills; instead he flagged down a marked police car and wept for help. His faith in humanity restored just enough that he felt hope; like maybe he could survive in a world that was so darkened by his depression while there were people still willing to buy him a takeaway coffee.
My third book is about the small stories. It’s about the drug addict that you walked past and threw a filthy look without even meaning to, it’s about the man rushing past you to a doctor’s appointment that will condemn his seven year old son, or driving in front of you stiff with tension because of the bag of class A drugs on his passenger seat, wondering how the hell he got himself into this situation. It’s about a father who won’t speak about a daughter beaten by a violent man while he is powerless to stop it. It’s about people out buying lunch on an ordinary day whilst the girl in the queue behind is about to have her story changed forever.
I love the smaller stories. The ones that show up the intricacies of life, the interactions that mean nothing to one man and everything to the other and how they fit into normality. There’s a place for the big story, a lot of people want the big story and I dig that, I’m entertained reading them myself but I hope you agree that sometimes the little story is the one that resonates with our own life. I know an addict; he said to me ‘we’re all just one moment away from being addicted to something’ and from I’ve seen he may well be right. Certainly we’re all one moment away from starting the chain of events that leads us to a hopeless addiction of some sort. And that moment may well be hidden away in a normal day, in the little story.
Look after your story and you’ll have a good chance of making it a happy ending. But we will all have a varying influence in other people’s story too and we can help make theirs go the same way. And everyone likes a happy ending right?