No Story is Too Small

In the wake of the Seahawks victory, there was some noise about defaced public property. People got drunk and made silly decisions. It was reminiscent of excited fans’ absurd behavior when the SF Giants won the World Series. During the celebration of a baseball victory, a shoe-shine stand on the street corner was burned to the ground.

A man lost his livelihood because of a sports victory.

It turns out that this man, Larry, had struggled for many years with his heroin addiction, and wore a suit to work every day—even though he was sleeping under a bridge. When he was contacted by reporters, he told his story, and said that giving up is not an option.  It’s something he doesn’t believe in.

I must have passed him a hundred times before I learned his name — much less the trials he had overcome before the burning. I’m too fixated on my story, and my own main characters.  I think in movie culture we don’t see the value of having a huge cast, but in text it can be used to extraordinary effect. They crop up in the story later and reveal their importance, even if you didn’t notice at first.

Seemingly small stories like this are all part of something bigger. As we’re writing, we fall in love with main characters, main events, and main ideas—forgetting that ‘throwaway’ characters also have histories, families and dreams. They don’t carry the burden of the main narrative on their shoulders, and are free to explore the world you’ve created. They’re free to be afraid, to spy, to run from one scene to the next—and surprise you with what they reveal.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.
— Vincent Van Gogh

There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view.
— Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Any path that narrows future possibilities may become a lethal trap. Humans are not threading their way through a maze; they scan a vast horizon filled with unique opportunities.
— The Spacing Guild Handbook


8 thoughts on “No Story is Too Small

  1. toconnell88

    It can be hard to see past the length of one’s nose sometimes — particularly as we’re part of the most narcissistic generation yet. It’s great that you’re actively trying to notice others and the little things around us.

    Never understood sports riots. Behaviour like that reinforces the neanderthal tendencies in some sports fans; which is a shame, because aside from sporadic fits of violence and gambling-related incidents of corruption, sport is something that unifies us.

    Anyway, good on you for giving this man props. Sounds like a remarkable guy. Here’s hoping we all apply the same grace to the minor characters in our stories.

    1. Setsu Post author

      Life imitates art imitates life. It’s amazing how shocked people are when you reach out and talk to them without wanting anything.

      As far as the sports riots… I wonder if sports are a kind of liminal space for the fans who don’t have any other outlets for intense passion. Wild happiness and wild rage look the same sometimes. Like uncontrollable laughter and uncontrollable crying have the same breathless hiccupping.

      Maybe I’m looking too far into it haha!

  2. REDdog

    I wonder if there isn’t some mileage in remembering that we are all minor characters in other people’s stories also…certainly one to keep in mind if any of us ever finds ourselves in the position of being on the world stage.

    1. Setsu Post author

      There’s a quote about that somewhere. You’re absolutely right. I love your perspective, Rd

      On the flip side, you could have a two-minute chat with a stranger that can change the whole course of your life. Minor doesn’t mean insignificant.


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