To Write An Epic: “The Story”
An Epic Story 23+ Years In The Making
In 1999, when I was in the 7th grade, I began conceptualizing an epic story alongside my close friend, Teresa Gulbrandsen. Teresa and I were social outcasts that had a special bond – I, the gay, mixed boy, and she, the fat, white girl (the basic friendship of every gay coming-of-age story in the ’90s).
Together, we dealt with our internalized, repressed anger and depression – a result of bullying, rejection, and loss – by expression through daydreaming, brainstorming, and writing stories wherein the weak had power. Indeed, it was a healthy alternative to addiction, fighting, self-harm, or worse – the issues that we now face more frequently in American culture because of a plethora of complex, overlapping issues that everyone wants to blame someone else for.
Side note: Not many people know this about me today, but in 1999 following the Columbine shooting I was detained and questioned at my school because I matched the personality profile of the shooters and wore similar clothes. First of all, none of my administrators ever spoke to me to know my personality, and secondly it was exactly that sort of treatment that fueled my desire to be rebellious… in story telling.
Over the years Teresa and I lost touch, but each of us still continued developing that epic “story”, which became an extension of our selves reflecting our life’s influences and experiences. “The story” was meant to be our Magnus Opum, but I’ll probably die before I ever complete it, or worse – someone else will tell a story close enough to it that mine will forever fall on deaf ears as a cheap, no-name imitation.
I’d rather die than be made into a copycat by history, so while the story still exists in my head, albeit unwritten… here it is.
But first, a preface…
Its All Been Done Before
We fantasized often about who would act in “the story”, what music should be on the soundtrack, and what the costumes of the characters would look like. It was my and Teresa’s hope to someday see it made into a feature film on the big screen. A film that represented us and our challenges to remain good people despite adversity. “The story” that we crafted first dealt with a missing God, fallen angels and a rebellious few that stood against the oppressive order that formed between the holy and the unholy legions. A trope that the late 90s and early 2000s explored plenty with films like Constantine, Legion, Priest, Gabriel, Dogma, and the list goes on.
As these films were released and I watched these stories unfold on the silver screen, so many so similar to our own, I had doubt that we could ever do any better. Several times, I gave up and decided to drop “the story” completely. I mean, I wasn’t even a writer – so how could I accomplish penning a film? Still, I realized that Hollywood seemed timid to touch upon certain ideas; except for Kevin Smith, who was fearless in writing Dogma.
Most Hollywood films didn’t deal with too many overlapping issues, or subplots, and status-quo challenges all at once, thus watering down narratives for the sake of ticket sales and broader audience appeal. So then, my path – one of someone of color, dealing with mental health issues at the time, and ostracized from most circles for something as lame as how I dress or my sexual partner preferences – became “the story”; the path of self-discovery for a boy who would become a god in God’s absence.
Who is GOD?
Many of the popular narratives at the time questioned, “why would God allow bad things to happen“, or, “where was God in the midst of tragedy“, or even more interesting, “why this war between good and evil for all of mankind’s souls“? But, do they question who God is or just the role He plays in our lives?
It’s considered sacrilegious in most religions to question God, yet we often meet characters within the context of film, literature and art that experience such a tragedy that they’re left with nothing but questions. Even in religious texts, questioning God’s edicts seems crucial to finding Him, though characters seldom question anything beyond their own circumstances and His involvement.
Rather, we are expected to ask little, know less, and accept a text that has been misinterpreted and edited since it’s inception as God’s word. The text doesn’t tell us as much about God as it does about God’s character described through interactions with humans.
What He did, What He said – all covered… but not who He is or how He came to be.
Are we, His creations, as simple as what we do and what we say? Do our social interactions completely define us? Or are there more complicated, complex emotions nestled between physical needs and ethereal satisfactions to be met that comprise who we truly are beneath the superficial interactions?
If we are complicated, then so too must our Creator be.
The Cathartic Creator
Since I revealed that my own path of self-discovery became “the story”, that I question who God is, and given that you’re on my website (Nolli The Creator), then I would surmise that you have come to the conclusion that I suffer from delusions of grandeur and a god complex. To be honest, I think we all do a little bit. We want to feel like we matter, like what we do is important and has purpose. When we lose that feeling, we lose a connection to our reason to be alive. It’s that reason that we are nonetheless seeking in our everyday affairs, yet rarely ever find with complete satisfaction.
For me, when I enter Creator Mode, it’s a moment for me to parse parts of myself that are in conflict. Old memories, new experiences, questions about my own actions and reactions, reflections on things I’ve done good and things I’ve done not so good. Creating is cathartic.
It occurred to me once, not too long ago, if creating for me is cathartic, then what must it be like for God?
An (in)Human Condition Story
If all of humanity with its tremendous diversity was and continues to be derived from one being, then how absolutely insane must that one being be for all the conflict within itself. I mean, look at us – capable of “incredible acts of love” while also capable of “unimaginable violence and horror”. We often think of all our matters as having two sides. That sense of duality, exists within us, between us, and envelopes us in nature; the virtuous and the vile – all of which each of us are capable.
Actually, there is a theory proposed by Australian biologist, Jeremy Griffith, that presents that our inner conflict, AKA the human condition, is a result of the emergence of our consciousness in opposition to our instinct. That essentially we are at war within ourselves – and honestly, I agree… to a very special extent.
The human condition is absolutely insane… and therefore we could think of it as a psychological affliction to God, who is probably trying to sort Himself out… I’ve come to believe that the internal struggle we feel – disconnection and isolation – stems from the very first separation; the moment that creation came into existence when an entity that was in part our God parsed its intellect from its instinct.
Can you imagine… A god of pure instinct, as powerful as a creator god, but unpredictable and without logic. A being that consisted of all the parts that another being decided were vile to it’s own existence, and so it was casted out and kept on the fringes of Creation by mighty, powerful beings that the new god created and shared his power with, allowing time for Him to sort himself out. Within each human life – opportunities to find remnants of the vile instinct that still creates conflict within the new god… so humans play out their dramas, none the wiser to the fact that they are all a part of a process of purification.
The devil never made sense to me as the ultimate villain because he was a product of God’s intention, and in fact this is where my version of “the story” truly begins. The devil is the supposed great tempter that brings about the fall of man away from God, but before he existed, what, or who, was there to tempt away Samael, the first, most beautiful and mightiest of all God’s angels? Why exactly does he collect the soul’s of the wicked?
Film Industry Story Disruptors – A Novel Way In
In the late ’00s to the early ’10s, more films were being produced that weren’t originally scripts to start. Novels, graphic novels, comics, and other media became sources for major motion pictures; Watchmen, the Harry Potter films, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower are a few that come to mind. Moreover, these forms of media explored deeper character relationships, emotions, thoughts and ideas that film adaptations would often at least acknowledge, whereas script-first films may have completely disregarded the same subplots and subtle characterizations.
I realized then that “the story” could still make it to the big screen, but it would probably have to exist in some other form of media first. I began writing it out, constantly revising my manuscript, finding myself moving further and further backwards with where to start with the character. After years of this back and forth editing, I came to a realization.
The story needed to be told in parts. Much like this blog post…