When I think about a story to write, I constantly come back to whatever is really important to me. Not just moderately important, or usually important, but of utmost importance. This happens to be the human condition and how people interact to affect it. Also, why I think I enjoy more difficult stories such as most, if not all, by Cormac McCarthy and the story collection of Ron Rash, Something Rich and Strange. These stories are built on human conditions that are decidedly and intentionally dark and uncomfortable, but nonetheless accurate for some. Maybe not accurate for 2016, or necessarily urban environments, but of some time, of some people.
Exploring this in any way is what I enjoy reading, though the word “enjoy” feels a little disingenuous, but I have no other word for it. These dark or serious sorts of stories are able to keep me engaged in a way others can’t. From what I remember, this is a theme that has true for a long time. My parents, my mother mainly, would buy books for me to read while in elementary school. The books were nearly always of the talking farm-animal type, and while they were enjoyable to an extent, I always felt bored with them. Thinking from then on that I just wasn’t a “reader,” I was very surprised to find that the first book that I read and heartily enjoyed was one that I picked, at random, for a book report in the sixth grade, called The Taste of Blackberries. It was the first book I read that felt “honest” to me.
Whether the story is realistic, fantasy, or something in-between, I am always looking at a believability of the human condition. Based on my limited experiences, many stories I read and have read don’t meet those criteria. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re bad stories, only that they might not have been as satisfying as they could have been for me. This criteria is built upon experiences I’ve had and interactions I’ve had up till now. Obviously, that means that what I view as “believable” is very limited, but I like to think that I give characters, especially characters I like, the benefit of the doubt when they do things that I don’t quite understand.
What I mean by human condition isn’t only when someone is in a completely undesirable situation or environment. It’s the complexity of action and consequence, as well as the meeting of competing philosophies and lifestyles.
This is also something I try to capture while writing. Whether or not I do a good job…well, I’ll have to wait and see.