Part Three: "A Character Who Wants Something"
The goal is to live a good story with your life. Don became entangled in writing three different stories at the same time. It sounds great, but like anything else worthwhile, good stories are hard work. Even if we really want something better for our lives, we naturally seek comfort and order. Often times, for characters to move into the interesting story, they are forced. He brings up “the inciting incident.” Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, characters won’t enter into a story. (Perhaps this is why the commandment, “Do not fear” is repeated over 200 times in the Bible. We are going to be afraid. Fear may keep us safe, but it may also keep us boring).
Don found an inciting incident in his story while pursuing a girl. He was invited to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. He mentioned to his social circle that he was thinking about it (bluff) and the girl he was pursuing was interested. This incident forced him to get into shape.
It seems (as Steven Pressfield writes) there is a force resisting the beautiful things in the world, and too many of us are giving in. The world needs for us to have courage, Robert McKee writes. The world needs for us to write something better.
The ambitions we have will become the stories we live. If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories. If we want meaningless material things, we are living stupid stories. If it won’t work in a story, it won’t work in (an interesting) life.
As he relates the story of his hike along the Inca Trail, he notes that there is an easy way to Machu Picchu (6 hours) and a hard way (four, grueling days). The saying was, the more painful the journey to Machu Picchu, the more the traveler would appreciate the city. Once Miller got to the city, he realized the truth of the statement. The pain of the journey made the city more beautiful. The story made the people different characters than the easy way would have. It made him think about people who have lived hard lives and had to sacrifices much, they will see heaven differently from us who have lived easier lives.
In this part of the book, he does meet his father, and along with the Inca Trail experience, these experiences make him want to live a story with meaning and intention.
Don learns that there are some elements to taking an interesting story to another level of being an epic story. One of the key elements is the ambition of the character. It must be difficult to attain. The more difficult, the better the story. The second element is that the ambition must be sacrificial. So far, Don’s two stories (meeting his father and hiking the Inca Trail) were interesting and difficult but nothing sacrificial or important. They do get him off the couch and attempt difficult things but he wanted more.