The short stories I’ve been working on lately all have very different characters, settings, and plots, but they have one thing in common: they all deal in some way with making choices.
I’ve noticed over the years that I have a set of common themes that I go back to over and over. One of my major themes is choice. I love putting characters in horrible situations where they have to choose between something that would help them versus something that would not help – and might even hurt – them, but which would be the ‘right’ thing to do.
I stumbled across Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning a few years ago. The first section is about Frankl’s experiences in several concentration camps during World War II. One of the most powerful things I remember is Frankl describing how people who were literally starving to death would give away their own food to others. Here’s a quote from his book:
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.
They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
These people chose to help others, even though it meant giving away something that they themselves desperately needed.
My next short story collection will focus on the theme of choice, so for the first time I’m intentionally writing with this theme in mind. Last night I finished the first draft of my first short story for this collection. This story doesn’t deal with choices like those made by the courageous people Frankl wrote about, but even the smaller choices have meaning. I’m looking forward to seeing what other stories I come up with while focusing on this theme.
In the meantime, I’m very happy with two of the choices I’ve made over the past year!