When I was little, my parents both worked, so I went to a home day-care. This was the late 80's, so our toys and books were of that era and I remember.there was this one Teddy Ruxpin book (Grubby's Romance) that still nags at me to this day. It nags at me because one of the rotten kids at the day-care had ripped some of the pages out! And even though I knew better, I used to read that book over and over and hope that somehow those pages would reappear so I could finally read (and understand) the whole story. I'm not kidding. I still think about this book.
It's just the way my brain works. I'm totally obsessive about stories. I remember whole episodes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Duck Tales. If something is told to me in the form of a story, I pretty much won't ever forget it. But that means I can't stand to listen to or read fragments of anything, because I'll remember those fragments and the missing pieces will bother me. Badly. I just want to know the whole story, it's really not that weird if you think about it.
For example, if I'm in the car and This American Life comes on the radio, I can't leave the story half-way through. I mean, technically I can. The car-ride ends, I have to get out of the car and turn off the radio, but I hate doing it. I hate having this catalogue in my head of all the stories I've heard on This American Life without ever getting to hear the end. Podcasts have solved this particular issue for me, but the theme continues through my life.
For instance, even though I love comic books, especially Marvel characters, I've never been able to get into the Marvel comic series because the story-lines are so expansive, I can't stand the thought of just jumping into the story midway. I want to start at the beginning and that's basically impossible at this point. Even if I bought every trade paper-back, I don't think it could be easily done. (Nor would it make a lot of sense. There's a mountain of discontinuity in those series which would drive me insane.) No, I find it easier to buy complete collections of manga, which begin and end in very discrete intervals. That's doable. But a part of me is always going to be sorry that I can't get over this little quirk in order to enjoy some classic American comics. Like Spiderman. I would LOVE to get into Spiderman. But it's never going to happen.
Same goes for cartoon shows, especially animes. Fox was the worst at this. They would show episodes out of order or skip episodes for whatever reason. Why did they do that? Just tell me the whole story!
This is why when I want to read a comic or watch a TV show, I usually just go ahead and buy the whole series. It's not cheap, so I have to be pretty selective, but I find it so much more enjoyable to read/watch a story from beginning to end. When I first started making a little money from my summer jobs, the first thing I did was buy the Dragon Ball Z manga one by one, all 26 books. It was awesome. Finally, after all those years of Cartoon Network yanking my chain with the incomplete DBZ anime, I finally had the whole story.
Do you feel this strongly about stories? Do gaps bother you as much as they bother me?
One of the ways I've gotten through just about any extended boring or difficult experience is by silently telling stories to myself.
The first (and only) time I went to sleep-away camp, I dealt with homesickness by creating an absolutely vivid soap opera in my head featuring several of the camp counselors. It was intense.
On long runs in high school and college, I constructed a very long-lived scenario in which I lived in L.A. and shared a house with an aspiring rock guitarist. I was an up-and-coming cartoonist. The guitarist and I never got together in a romantic sense, but we threw really good parties and jam sessions that were attended by old farts like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, who envied our youth. That story-line went on until my first year of graduate school when it seemed I had finally exhausted every possible plot line that could be wrung from an admittedly thin scenario.
Then there were the Russian spy years, which were really unwritten X-Files fanfiction featuring Alex Krycek and Marita Covarubius. During commutes to and from work, I'd sit in the car and idly spin stories about those two. I created so much backstory for them. It was kind of awesome (and simultaneously very lame). But again, the story grew stale and I moved on to the next.
This one was much more original, but no less absurd, featuring hockey playing women who were beautiful enough to be models/ice girls, and hockey players that suspiciously looked a lot like Alex Semin (see above). The Semin character really wanted to dance in the Bolshoi ballet, but he was just too darn good at hockey. He and the hockey playing model were roommates in Russia (I have no idea why that's been a reoccurring theme in my stories). She learned the language, and became a translator for the team. She was fun, maybe a little casual about life goals and drugs, but world-traveled, and above all obsessed with hockey. Eventually she worked her way up into the management of the hockey team and others, etc. etc. etc.
It just went on and on. It was a really excellent story...to tell myself . I doubt it would translate to an external audience, particularly those who may not be familiar with the dark and zany charms of Alex Semin. That story-line only stopped fairly recently when I started writing more stories down (completely different from these ones I've listed) and the exhaustion from trying to work on so many projects helped me sleep just fine without these silly epics to lull me.
A friend of mine recently mentioned that she got to sleep each night by telling herself stories, and I was surprised. It's not just me that does this? Does everyone do this? Telling yourself goofy stories is not a topic that comes up a lot in conversation, so I just assumed I was weird.
I don't know what I'd think about if I wasn't thinking about stories in one form or another, ridiculous and cheesy as they are. I think my brain would be much quieter, which is one of the reasons I've always been a little suspicious of meditation. I mean, are you aiming to make the brain shut up and the stories go away? That sounds terrible.
Do you tell yourself stories?
p.s. I've never even remotely considered writing any of these silly (bad) stories down, because they all break a very important rule: never include yourself in the story. Not even tangentially. The reader can tell right away when the author is masquerading as one of the beautiful, talented characters. It's fun to imagine yourself that way sometimes, or to inhabit a character in your imagination, but no one wants to hear about it. Trust me, I slush read, and it ain't pretty when it happens.
Writer, editor, scientist.