Your Story

What do we know about ancient civilizations? About religious beliefs? About anything really?

Writing today documents what we know about these things in our time, and how we feel about this knowing, how we react, how we see the world in this moment.

Why are classics timeless? Forget the writing style which is amazing, and think about how we can get lost in the beliefs of another time. We can see how one life shaped today's world. It makes me a stronger woman to read about how women were treated. It makes me proud of my roots to read the story of how my ancestors pioneered. What pushes us to be so us? Fiction gives us an insight to society, non-fiction gives us the truths or goals.

Of course it does so much more. If we stop for a moment to think about a genre, any one will do, as they are all important...

Why are sci-fis so fascinating? They allow us to imagine what the world would be like based on what we know at the time of the writing. It draws me in to see the future through the eyes of artists. Why? Because they are seeing something in today's world and bringing that to life in a future. It could be anything. How we idolize our bodies or how we normalize drugs... and they twist it into a future so bizarre we buy into it because... what if?

Historical fiction takes a past event and changes something about it. It might have really happened that way, how do we know? Seeing a new truth, means we see the world around us differently. Which can be exciting or scary. It can open our eyes to other things because... what if?

Writers don't just document events, they document emotions and beliefs that entire futures are shaped around. They put themselves in spots and troubles and work their way out in ways that shock us yet remind us that nothing is impossible.

There is no limit in the minds of writers. The raw honesty, the bold voices, all of it comes from where? Is it from things observed in the world around them? Why do they choose a certain set of eyes to tell the story? How do they know that's the most compelling way to share this story? And why is the same story so different told by someone else.

Each of us has a story in us that was shaped by others, by communities, by beliefs, by history, by our future goals and dreams. These stories are like little headings we walk around with for a writer to record and transmit.

Thanks to technology, we are each documenting our own journey. We are leaving behind a trace of ourselves our great grand children will look up and write about in THEIR own words. Can you imagine those school assignments?
"Based on my Internet research, my great grandfather really liked hockey. He was bold and openly told people to stop bad mouthing things, which I like about him. Everyone loved him. He got over fifty birthday wishes and had six hundred friends! He went on two trips in his life and ate a lot of red meat with beer. He read one book and watched two movies throughout his lifetime. Both of which he left no comments, but he did give one of the actresses a five star! He did however leave a comment about a music artist. I don't know what it means but he said the artist was lame. I assume it saddened him that he was hurt and wanted others to support him because he made a lot of such comments about his lameness. He shared A LOT of posts about cats, so I bet he was a cat lover. Here are several self portraits of my grandfather. His first one is an ultrasound from when he was still in his mother's womb. I found it on her page. He's in his diaper here. I found it because his aunt tagged it. He's at a party here, this was something a friend posted but tagged him in. He graduated college here and bought his first car. This is his wedding picture. He had a black eye, but I can't find why, but I assume he must have fallen from a tree saving one of his beloved cats. This was him with my grandmother the day she was born, and later at her first hockey game. His final pictures were after his stroke. He handled it great and started blogging while in the hospital. The blog posts talk about hockey teams and his opinion on them which is very bold and caused some controversy. I like that about him. Surprisingly I couldn't find any pictures of him with his cats."

This is followed by the child who says, "My great grandma was sick a lot. She only posted pictures of her dogs and her crafts. I was surprised to see this picture of this hat she made, because I own it now! Wow! I had no idea she'd made this or that it was so old. I wonder why she was always sick."

Yup. Your story is writing itself!

How has the written word affected your life? Do you worry about the digital trace we're leaving behind? What does your story tell? What genre influenced your life? What story are you sharing?

Does a Story Change Our Point Of View or Does Our Point of View Change The Story?

So I was digging in some archives this week. The story I had was pretty simple, this priest started a Boy Scouts chapter  in the 1960s and when he left the community it ended. I don't know what I was thinking I'd dig up, but anything would be helpful. I was hoping for the Scouts leaders, maybe the participants... you know, some fun facts to make a little article about it.

The truth was somewhat deeper. Yeah, yeah, this priest started the Boy Scouts, but from that first fact I  imagined he was the leader. But he didn't run it, he had Brothers run it. These Brothers did quite a few awesome things in the community. And from his own letters I read about how he was having trouble with these Brothers not respecting him. All this priest wanted was a little respect, and he had a list of times when they were purposely destroying him. In fact, as a team, they were bullying him, using the fact that the community liked them to turn everyone against him. They were giving him the cold shoulder and this was affecting his status in the community and his ability to do his job. And yup, not once was this denied in the replies from the Brother Superior.

But, there are always two sides, right? And when I had someone else read one of the letters, her comment was, "He sure has a lot of pointless complaints." And I won't list them all here, but yeah, they could be considered trivial grievances, things like leaving mass early to get to class... Things weren't instant messaged back in the 60's, so months later he got a reply stating that respect works both ways and the reason they didn't respect him was because of how he had openly called them down during mass, repeatedly, or that he was purposely doing these masses when he knew they were committed elsewhere... The priest was reminded about how dedicated they were and how much they were giving back to the community. Brother Superior had his own list of things the priest had done to degrade the Brothers and not appreciate all the things they were doing. And once again, this list could be considered trivial grievances or perhaps fuel to the fire.

As an exhausted mediator, the Brother Superior asked both parties to show compassion and remember their mission. He reminded them that these small problems were not worth the trouble and that if they could put them aside, they would see real change in the community. Some good advice, in writing.

The letters stopped, or went missing, maybe the priest burned them. Maybe the issues were resolved or maybe they got worse. Heck, maybe a zombie clan ate the lot. We won't ever know. What I do know is that years passed and both the Brothers and the priest left the community because they were needed elsewhere... and so ended the Boy Scouts, never to start up again.

Now. I tried to remain objective. Did you?  Think about it, when I used the word "bullying" did you side with the priest being picked on by a gang of Brothers or when I used the word "trivial" did you side with the Brothers doing all the work for the priest and not getting any appreciation? Did you feel the frustration of the Brother Superior when I used the word "exhausted", maybe even hear him sigh as he thought about how childish they were all being? Or did you see the other victims: the Boy Scouts and think about all the future generations missing out?

Words are powerful and can quickly move me from being objective to getting you to see things my way. Now, even better, as the storyteller, I can spin this in any one direction and lose my objectivity to take you on an emotional ride... Heck, I can even go all fantasy and say a Dark Whisperer visited this town and did a little whispering, spreading this chaos. And a Light Whisperer (The Brother Superior), tried to fix things. Or I could go all zombie apocalypse and say they were attacked by zombies and couldn't work together, and the Boy Scouts were eaten! Now they feel bad. I mean, who wouldn't?

And once I pick a side, a victim, a setting, and decide who is the good guy and who is the bad guy (even if there is none) I have a story. It'll change from storyteller to storyteller as they add in their perspective, their voice, even their beliefs. And in doing so, the same story can be retold different ways and make us think of different truths and different possibilities, without ever giving us the truth, the whole truth or without ever lying.

Mind boggling.

So is the story changing how we see the players or are the players changing the way we see story? Is it the words having this imagery effect on our senses? Or our own experiences?

It got me thinking about an exercise I did in a writing class once. The teacher showed us a picture of a tree with a door. The Sci-fi writers went off telling us how this door was going to open onto some other dimension. I knew it was the home of fairy, and of course the history buff at the table said it was clearly some symbolic thing. The romance writer had a lovely tale to share about a maiden in hiding... and so this door kept our creative minds busy. Not one of us had the same idea about the same door (it was red, by the way, with a brass knocker and two cement steps leading up to it, a flower pot on the right side). And depending on how the tale was told, our emotions were evoked and our imagination let loose.

Thanks to social media, are we picking sides based on what we read without getting all the story or based on someone's point of view of the story? Or is it the opposite and thanks to social media and searches, we can get the story with objectivity? What do you think? Are you seeing more and more storytelling or more and more factual objective tales?

And I know you're dying to share your story about the door in the tree, so please do.