Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Remember

I remember a story from when I was in grade school. I don’t remember who wrote it or where I saw it, but I remember it was about some school kids living on another planet. Because of the cloud cover on the planet, the sun wasn’t visible for years at a time. Most of the students had never seen the sun, but they were excited because there was going to be a break in the clouds that day. There was one student in the class who had lived on Earth. The other students speculated about what the sun would look like, but this student told them they were all wrong. They became frustrated with him and locked him in a closet while they continued to speculate. Then someone came in and told them that the sun was shining. They rushed outside to see it and in their haste they forgot about the boy in the closet. What they saw was exactly like what he had said it would be.

Why should I remember that story so clearly and forget so many others? I’ve often wondered about that and as storytellers, we want to know how we can make our own stories memorable. I’ve considered this carefully and what I’ve determined is that the reason I remember that story is because I found it upsetting that the other kids would lock the new kid in the closet so that he wouldn’t be able to see the sun. It wasn’t the ending I wanted. While the kid won the argument, it came at a price that, had I written the story, I might not have wanted to make my character pay. I wanted him to get out of the closet and stand in the light of the sun along with the other students.

One of the things that can make a story memorable is that it doesn’t end exactly like we want. It helps when the reader has time to think about how he would have liked for the story to end. If the story ends like he wants, the story is done and he can move on to something else, but that lack of resolution, that feeling that something isn’t quite right cements the story in his mind.