Saturday, February 17, 2018

Stories I Tell; Stories I Don't Tell

"And I wasn't looking for heaven or hell
Just someone to listen to stories I tell"

--Toad the Wet Sprocket "Stories I Tell"

As an author in search of a story I look for characters and a situation that grabs me.  I need  something different, something that makes me curious, makes me want to know more about them. 

In short, I want a story I'd like to read.

One of the best-known writer tropes is to Write What You Know.  My problem with that is that I don't find my own stories all that compelling.  At best, they might make for amusing anecdotes; at worst they show what an insensitive and flawed human I am.  Neither of these create that spark in me that makes me want to know more.  I already know about me.  Even if I were to attribute my actions to a fictionalized version of myself, I don't know of a resolution that wouldn't ring false with me*.

Most of us can look around us and see strangers and make up stories about them -- brief vignettes of what they're doing, who they're going to meet and why, what secrets they're keeping, what they really want in life.  These are fun distractions, but I've never had one spark into an idea for a story I wanted/needed to tell.

Then there are stories/parts of stories I know about friends, family, acquaintances.  These are often exactly the type of deeply moving stories that reflect the kind of vulnerability and a struggle for the kind of positive resolution we, as readers, want our storied friends made of typeface and our imaginations to find.  For me, even if I tried to change and disguise the people and the events, this comes away as something of a betrayal of the confidence under which I learned about the story.

Some stories are not mine to tell.

One of the best things about being a writer, from my perspective, is finding the right story, the right characters, the right setting, and having them all come together in my head.  That's often a long, frustrating process.  Like now, for instance.

Then, of course, there's finding someone to read and appreciate those stories.

(But that's another post for another day.)

"Now what is a blessing and what is a dream
Caught between portraits and none's what it seems
And why is it people expect there's a change
When I feel I'm a part of something I can't see
I feel the same"

--Toad the Wet Sprocket  "Stories I Tell"