One misgiving I’ve faced, and I’ve heard many writers and speakers lament this, so it rings true for me – is that this challenge, to be writing something powerful when the subject events and conflicts we are writing about haven’t happened to us personally – so how could we know, and how can we make that story a page-turner?
And, every time we hear someone giving their first-person account of a remarkable achievement or ‘a funny thing happened today,’ or dealing with their recovery from low moments in life, we are gobsmacked by their compelling story and their main character, who is most often the storyteller giving their first-hand account.
Enter the fiction writer – we make up our story. Some create historical fiction, imagining what might have happened or been said by real characters from history or imaginary ones from the writer’s creative juices.
Many with powerful stories worth telling are often clumsy writers or speakers; and, conversely, many writers and speakers possess great skill but feel they lack personal stories worthy of telling for fear nobody will want their account or prose – when it is so needed in the marketplace because we become great fans of novels, movies, and stage or TV dramas that draw us in as if we were there too.
I watched a webinar about a writer who wrote his story first-draft about a time and place, and then he went to that place, researched history, and tweaked his draft to make events fit the context. He created a successful novel with compelling information and considerable writing talent – he made it up, he polished it in every way he knew how to make it plausible and thrilling.
But life isn’t like that.
Life never lives up to expectations or unfolds according to plans.
Life either exceeds or fails to meet our expectations.
Poor plans might lead down the despair trail, and any refreshed strategy stands a no better chance of winning or losing.
Having no plan might lead to something interesting, but mostly that’s like putting a sponge near water – it’s bound to soak up something, but it’s not going anywhere.
Where am I going, and when will I know if I’m there?
The meaningful story does not tell tales idly or whimsically, but rather as revelation of what we learned and what retelling those insights teach others. Watching that webinar inspired me and caused me to refocus some thoughts on a couple of events – recalling where I was and what I was doing when those historical events occurred.
It occurred to me that many historically significant events could be smoothly woven into the fabric of time-relevant stories, comingled with any of our lives – because we know where we were, and we recall what has happened. And, we remember what happened differently after that event occurred - post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this.)
While drafting this, I got a call and was told an intriguing story – a dear and weary friend taking a break from a busy day on the ranch at calving time – calling to check in on me. Someone so very much at home on her range; no little house on the prairie story, but a different struggle package that could be a novel beginning …
Thank you for writing this Mark. It made me think of some fortuitous zig zags in my own life. By some coincidence, coffee and picnics are two of my favourite things. And for some reason, the last nine months have also flown by for me. Why is it that the times we treasure go so quickly and a less than stellar hour can feel like a gloomy decade? Here’s to zigzags and to choosing the best of tines, HM, Calgary, AB