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Lee Child on Storytelling – The Recent York Times


Then got here Nov. 4, 2001, a Sunday, 54 days after Sept. 11. Initially I had been as devastated and upset by the attacks as anyone. I hated that my beloved and adopted city had been so cruelly violated and that the American people, whose default goodwill and optimism I admired a lot, had been so cruelly upset. The primary couple of weeks were stunned and miserable.

Then my storytelling brain kicked in, and I discovered myself writing the ending. Where was the crumb of comfort? What can be the vital first step to the longer term?

Well, the Yankees were within the postseason. It was obvious to me what should occur. And I guarantee that if every novelist and screenwriter in Recent York had gathered together for a citywide story conference, we’d have all agreed on the identical basic arc: Joe Torre’s tough and scrappy dynasty should pick itself up and dirt itself off, and carry the town on its back, as scared and numb and nervous and bewildered as all of us were, through the primary round, through the second and into the World Series.

Which happened.

Then we’d get into detailed storyboarding. Obviously the Series would need to be epic. It could need a nasty start — our proxies in a right away hole — after which a solid one-game comeback, after which some type of truly sensational go-ahead motion … possibly a bottom-of-the-ninth last-out, last-strike homer … followed the following night by the very same thing ! Could we get away with that? We needed to — we would have liked the mystique, the supernatural tinge, the boiling emotion to hold us onward.

Which happened.

Obviously it needed to be a seven-game series, so we’d lose the sixth to establish the inevitable denouement. The ultimate game can be close and tight, but we’d carry a lead into the underside of the ninth, and we might close it out, and win. Joy and relief can be unbounded. The following morning, a Monday, Recent Yorkers would stand straighter, heads up, shoulders back, a gleam of their eyes, encouraged, empowered, invigorated.

Which didn’t occur.

A bloop single meant the Arizona Diamondbacks won as a substitute. I used to be astonished. The traditional narrative arc had let me down. It wasn’t real. I used to be profoundly affected. For a time I believed story was silly and pointless. I didn’t write a word for 2 months. That 12 months’s book was the just one I ever delivered late. I didn’t blame the Yankees and even the Diamondbacks. I blamed myself. I had misinterpreted. Now I learned that story, so often satisfying, is merely compensation for reality, which is so often unsatisfying. Right? Definitely I liked my Game 7 higher than the true one.

Episode is a weekly column exploring a moment in a author’s life. Lee Child is the creator of the Jack Reacher series of novels, stories and novellas, and an executive producer of the streaming series “Reacher.” The following Reacher book, co-written with Andrew Child, shall be published next month.

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