The meaning of life.

(What’s your story?)

How on earth did I get on to this subject? I guess it’s part of a writer’s thought process to flit butterfly-like from one flower of imagination to another, uncovering connections that were hitherto undiscovered. It started when I delivered the second draft of the current short story to Andy for his perusal. One of the comments he made after completing his read-through was that he didn’t understand why a certain character acted in the way he did. At first I was tempted to edit the draft to explain this more clearly in the narrative, but after consideration I realised it would take away a lot of the mystery and make the story much more ‘wooden.’ So I let the character remain ineffable. Philosophical motivations can be many and varied, rational or irrational, and I wanted the reader to be able to fill in the blanks themselves, allow them to speculate and use their own imaginations. (I won’t say who the character was as it might be a spoiler.)

This got me thinking about the meaning of life which, let’s face it, is a major drive to our plans, our ambitions, the relationships we forge and the journeys we make. In his book, ‘The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy,’ Douglas Adams wrote that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42. We’d love there to be a simple answer, wouldn’t we? But what if there are many meanings to life? Is someone directing the meanderings of our existence like a play? Is there a ‘grand plan forged by celestial beings?’ I tend to think, rather, that we create our own narrative, effectively write the story of our own lives.

This can be a daunting thought, but also an exciting one. It can also be reduced to comedy – as Frankie Boyle so ably demonstrates in his stand up shows. There will always be a segment (usually near the beginning) where he sends up members of the audience and asks them: ‘What’s your story?’ Some answer by stating their profession, others with why they’ve come to watch the show. Some, he picks on because of their appearance. Boyle creates a story based on this – ‘with that hairstyle you look like a moderately powerful pokemon!’

N.B. Caution when watching the youtube link to Frankie Boyle’s show – he’s not entitled the ‘dark heart of Mock the Week’ for nothing.

So what elements contribute to our own internal narrative: Our upbringing? What our parents taught us? Our heroes? The music we listen to? What we think our talents are? Our culture? Our religion? Somewhere amongst all this smorgasbord we try to find the ‘truth’ about ourselves. In stories, we sometimes find something in the characters we identify with; something that speaks of our particular truth.

Perhaps you might find such a character in ‘The Catacombs of Kal-Khagos,’ the latest short story I mentioned earlier. Do you find a connection with Yardec the scrying furtive Kaldoran? Perhaps the main character, Edver, strikes a chord with you. Or maybe the blue-skin of few words, Esk-Bor, speaks to your sense of having to struggle with inner anger.

Such is the nature of short stories; they provide an experience, a flavour of something, a lie that speaks the truth truer. If you’re left with more questions at the end of the story than the beginning then maybe that’s a good thing. Life’s story doesn’t tie up all the loose ends after all.


The Catacombs of Cal-Khagos can be downloaded free at

1 Comment

  1. Kevin says:

    Love the cover art and you raise some thought provoking points. I especially like writers/creators that don’t spoon feed their audience but leave some room for their own imaginations.

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