I’m going to see the musical The Lion King with my sister this weekend at the Detroit Opera House. The Lion King almost certainly won’t make it into my project, but I was thinking about it and thought I’d take a few minutes to analyze how the bare story elements of the musical might help me in my project. Perhaps as I’m watching it, I’ll be paying attention to what about the story is so intriguing. Is it powerful because of one of the themes, such as “The Circle of Life,” that illustrates that things (families, regimes, organizations) go on throughout time, no matter how much they may evolve? Might I simulate that with the story of some group that has proceeded even after the demise or retirement of a central figure, such as a teacher, coach or even a U.S. president? Or is the story powerful because of the conflict between good and evil forces Simba and Scar, and the ultimate triumph of the former? Maybe I could tell a similar story about a similar battle that I’ve seen play out? Perhaps the story appeals to people because of the strength of family. In that case, I could tell a story about family, around which so many stories are structured.
Maybe in the end, the story is meaningful for any one of these reasons to all different people: those who have dealt with trying to be the successor to an important throne; those who have rooted for good over evil; those who are close to their families. Maybe each story captivates a different person in a different way. I had already associated this as part of my project, and I think it’s something worth exploring in-depth. When I listen to and read the advice of the writers I’m going to consult, the main question I want to think about is how to make these decisions. How would Eli Saslow’s (my Patronus) piece on the parents of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting been different if he had centered it around the reform effort, or revisited the day of the shooting more, or profiled several families as opposed to focusing the narrative on one? And why didn’t he? I think any story lends itself to several different perspectives, and the fact that each person could take something different for that adds importance to the value of thinking about how we tell these stories.