I just finished listening to the Serial podcast, and it’s left me feeling a bit strange. First of all, when I started listening I thought it was a fiction. I went in, as I often do with books and movies, knowing nothing about the story other than people had said it was good. I thought it was a murder mystery type story, and when I started listening I was like “oh, cool, they put a lot of effort into making this seem real.” When I found out it was real, I was almost disappointed, because I know that real stories rarely have exciting endings, or endings that make sense or explain anything or are satisfying in any way.
And I was right. The story was told well–very well–and documented and researched well, and the journalist made it exciting to follow along with her as she discovered inconsistencies and unanswered questions in the case. But there was no ending, no answers, no resolution. It was a story in the journalistic sense, not a story as us fiction writers think of it.
And that got me thinking, what is a ‘story’? Does it have to have an ending, a point, or a message? People were thoroughly entertained by this simple telling of events, a detailed look at one murder case and the days in the lives of the people involved. There were no character arcs or villains defeated or lovers reconciled. It was just… stuff that happened, and questions about what actually happened. But that’s what life is made of.
It also made me feel very sad, knowing that there are people wrongly imprisoned. Even if Adnan himself is guilty, there are definitely others. There are even people working to free them, called The Innocence Project. Prison is already one of my worst fears, and knowing how easy it can be to be put there just on someone else’s word is a bit frightening. When listening to this, I felt a moment of passion about helping people in such situations. But, being not a lawyer and not a scientist or journalist, I don’t think there is much I could do.
Anyway, I really enjoyed the story and I’d recommend it to any fans of true crime, or even murder mysteries. It made me think about stories, and what storytelling could be. But I think I’ll be glad to go back to fiction, where I can always count on a satisfying resolution that answers all my questions.
Unless I’m watching Lost.