After 36 hours of lecture on story from Robert McKee, Donald Miller's roommate Jordan sums up what makes a good story in just 11 words: A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.
Miller's latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life talks about living your own life like a movie story, cutting down on those superfluous scenes where nothing changes. Hearing this idea that we could be living good stories, Miller's friend Jason decides to craft a better story for his family, in hopes that it will help his teenage daughter make better decisions.
Looking for something worthwhile for his family to pursue, Jason came across an organization that builds orphanages around the world. When he learned that it takes about $25,000.00 to build one, he remembered that a good story involves risk, and not knowing where the money would be found, agreed to build it.
After his wife and daughter took some time to process how this chapter might change their lives, each jumped in the journey. His daughter asked to travel to Mexico to meet the kids, so she could share their stories and photographs on her website in the hopes that more people would find their place in the story, and help. And she quickly dumped her loser boyfriend, because, as her dad said, "No girl who plays the role of a hero dates a guy who uses her."
It reminds me of Iris, Kate Winslet's character in "The Holiday." (Mock the movie all you want, but Jude Law has never been more delicious.) When Iris flees her newly engaged, player of a non-boyfriend for Los Angeles, she meets Arthur, a screenwriter from the golden age of cinema. He introduces her to the leading ladies of his day, and teaches her to stop playing the best friend role and start acting like the star of her own life.
How many of us are walking through life, watching them happen to us, not sure that we would want to watch our own story on the big screen? As Miller asks, "I wondered if life could be lived more like a good story in the first place. I wondered whether a person could plan a story for (her) life and live it intentionally."
This year has been a period of quiet reflection, also known as unemployment. And now, I'm ready to take some risks.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
~ Mary Oliver