“But I’ve gone ahead of my story. Denys would have hated that.
Denys loved to hear a story told well.”
– Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
It’s true, isn’t it? Most of us love a story told well. Especially a love story. Elizabeth Bennet overcomes her prejudice and Mr. Darcy his pride to find true love. Sydney Carton swaps identities so Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay can live happily ever after. “Plain Jane” governess Eyre finds an unexpected soul mate in the brooding, taciturn Mr. Rochester. Yuri Zhivago and Lara Guishar Antipova are united, lost, reunited and lose each other again during the Bolshevik Revolution and lots of snow.
Stories draw us in with danger, intrigue, suspense and the whisper of a happy ending. A good story opens with all is well, moves into all is not well, and ends with an echo of hope. Good is being overrun. Evil, treachery or loss are on the loose. Sometimes all three. Battle, sacrifice, hardship, courage, and rescue gallop across pages and plots.
A good story includes a dashing hero or an intrepid heroine who must overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to win freedom, homeland or true love. The Black Riders hunt Frodo with deadly intent. Mordred plots King Arthur’s demise. Farmer Brown chases Peter into a shed and Captain Hook loads Peter’s cup with poison. Will the beautiful heroine or gallant hero overcome? Is all hope lost? Will rescue arrive in time? How will these stories unfold, stories that begin with lines like:
I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. …
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, …
Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids.
Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.
Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
A long time ago, when all the grandfathers and grandmothers of today were little boys and little girls… Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. …
Excerpted from Once Upon a Story…, which is looking for a reputable publisher. Stay tuned for the rest of the chapter…