All stories are true if told right.
I believe that wholeheartedly to be a completely accurate statement. The best example I know of this is within the telling of the Princess Bride, which was made into a movie when I was about 10. I loved it then, I love it now. It would be impossible to say if there are any parts of it I love more than any other because as a whole, it’s well written and brilliant.
William Goldman wrote the screenplay, adapted from an abridged novel he wrote from the original content by one S. Morgenstern. After I saw and loved the movie, I sought out and read the book. I loved it even more.
In it, he talks of how his father read him the story when he was young and, wanting his son to have the same love of the book he did, asked his assistant to find an original copy in time for his sons’ 13th birthday. Upon receiving the book, his son found it lackluster, barely making it through the first couple of chapters. When Goldman expressed his surprise and dismay at this, his wife then asked, “have you ever actually read it?” He had not. Sitting down with the tome, he was shocked to find it a most dry and ponderous read. Realizing his father had edited out all of the tedium, leaving only the parts that had excited and enthralled him as a child. So he decided to rewrite the story as it had been told to him and this was the book I was now reading, according to the introduction and various asides throughout the book. I read of how there were whole chapters dedicated to the hat collection of a neighbouring kingdoms’ princess, among other details too boring to even mention. He stripped away the unnecessary, uncovering a story that delighted me to no end and was infinitely instrumental in cementing my desire to write, if only to make others feel the way this book made me feel.
25 years later, I found myself thinking about that original book, the one I had thought of more than once over the years, grateful that Goldman had made it available to the world in a form that made sense. At some point, I decided, even if it was an overly dull representation of a tale whose values I carried with me (life is pain, anyone who says different is trying to sell you something and never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line, unless you’ve spent years developing an immunity to iocane powder and true love does not necessarily happen every day, but when it does…whoo-hoo!) I still wanted to read it. A very short search on the internet gave me some pertinent details about the book I was seeking out.
It didn’t exist.
S. Morgenstern didn’t exist.
William Goldman has no son, but two daughters.
He was the sole author of the Princess Bride, written in 1973.
For 25 years, I carried around a false story that to me, was entirely true. I had shared it with countless people, telling them how amazing it was for his father to have verbally edited the book in such a way that he had carried it from his childhood, to enrich my and many others lives with a story that might have been passed over, due to it’s unimaginative content.
It blew my 35 year old mind that I could still be surprised. And better than that, it reawakened that long dormant desire to carry it forward, to tell stories well enough, that there was no way to know (beyond a google search) if they were actually true. To tell stories so well that you never wondered if they were or not, because that’s not the part of the story that matters.
The part that matters is how it makes you feel. How it makes you yell with rage at the injustice of a woman forced to marry a prince she doesn’t love while the man she does love languishes in the pit of despair. How it makes you cheer and clap when the young heartbroken boy who became a man consumed with vengeance, finally finds redemption. How it makes you sigh, makes your eyes mist a little and makes your heart feel a little bigger in your chest while sharing the moments when true love finds a way to win. Because it should. I’m not saying that there aren’t good stories out there where love doesn’t win, but I know how I feel about the ones where it does.
So thanks WIlliam Goldman, for reminding me that I love how it feels not just to read, but to write as well.
And so I shall.
Have fun storming the castle!