Every now and then, I get an email alert from FanFiction.net. I haven’t posted anything on that site in about five years – and my writing has improved exponentially since those days, so I’m not about to recommend that anybody reading this go track it down – but once every couple of months, someone clicks the little “favorite” button on one of my stories, and I get an email to let me know.
Sometimes that someone also takes the time to leave a review. This doesn’t happen often, but in the past few months, a few people have been commenting on one story in particular, something I wrote way back in 2011. It’s called “Tiger and Tigger.” It’s just under six hundred words long, and it describes the happenstance meeting of Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh and Shere Khan from The Jungle Book.
Most of the reviews talk about how funny the story is, but one had another thing to say: “PS: My eight-year-old daughter liked it, too.”
The next day, another review appeared: “I'll be reading this to my children. Wonderful.”
It hadn’t occurred to me before that something I wrote on a whim and threw to the internet seven years ago would one day be read to someone’s child. It warms me to imagine it: parent and child sitting together on the bed, laptop at hand, giggling over the antics of two diametrically-opposed Disney cats.
On a completely different whim, I went to an opening night showing of Avengers: Infinity War. I usually don’t do opening nights, and I didn’t expect to find a seat in the theatre, but I did.
I also didn’t expect to spend the next two and a half hours going through what I would later describe in a text to a friend as “the most brutal film experience I’ve ever had,” but I did.
I can’t ever recall hearing an entire theatre around me cry out in agony as the screen cut to credits. I don’t think I’ve ever spent an entire credits sequence trying to stop hyperventilating, or spent a good twenty minutes after that sitting in the parking lot messaging my sister before I felt up to driving home. I don’t watch movies that I think will have that kind of effect on me; I leave parties when someone puts on a horror film. Even with all the exposure to film spoilers my current job gives me, I had no reason to think that that was what I was in for.
As a storyteller, I can recognize the artistry required to create such strong emotions in an audience. I can imagine how thrilled the people responsible for that film’s creation must be, to know how large an impact they’ve had on people all over the world.
I can also come to one very firm conclusion: that is not what I want to do with my writing. Not at all.
I don’t want to create shared agony. I want to create shared joy.
Walt Disney once said that the idea for his theme parks came from days spent watching his daughters on the merry-go-round, wishing that there was a place where parents and children could have fun together. Like him, I want to create that space where people will have fun together, where all will feel safe and encouraged, free to wonder and laugh.
I suppose that’s why I ran off to Disney World after college, in pursuit of the ability to take the tigers and Tiggers who made me happy when I was little and create new stories for them that children and parents will share and enjoy.
And it’s nice to know that I’ve already been doing so for years.