My stories

Many Faces
(Photo credit: whoaitsaimz)

Why is storytelling important? Why is it important to learn how storytelling works?

Never mind fiction. Never mind other people’s stories.
Never mind the manipulations of truth that we are subjected to everyday as news.
Never mind those stories that are silenced around us.

No matter what we feel about stories, or how much we hate reading stories, or don’t want to listen to stories, we are constantly subjected to at least one story. We cannot escape the one story that is constantly with us.

It’s the story that we tell ourselves about ourselves.

We are the protagonists of our own story. That protagonist’s story is what we know as my story.
That story is what makes us hang together as me.

That’s why we need to learn how storytelling works.

In my stories, some of us are tragic characters, victims of circumstances, either swimming against the tide or just passive. Round pegs in square holes.

Some of us are heroes. Simply self made. We achieved what we did in life either through our merit or some kind of cleverness manipulating our circumstances. We remember our past as fighters, rescuers, talented doers.

Some of us struggled against circumstances to reach where we are today. That conflict between us and the world gave my story meaning.

Some of us are men, bearing our responsibilities despite the odds, manly heroes of our manly stories.

Some of us are nurturers having sacrificed other great possibilities for our everyday families, feminine martyrs giving up opportunities we could have easily achieved for domestic happiness.

That is what we tell ourselves.

Some parts make us angry. Some parts make us cry. Some parts are nice. We keep replaying these in our minds over and over again. We choose memories that fit the story. My story.

We string together experience to make sense of who we are and where we’re going.

Sometimes our stories change. We alter our pasts by altering our memories. We rewrite.

When there are conflicting stories we struggle to make sense of ourselves.

Sometimes, our lives in the past seem like hypertext that could have been linked to  different concluding bits ending with our present moment. Ahh. How different the present could have been.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to survive” (Joan Didion).

It’s when we start thinking of our stories as already written, or mostly written, that we begin to lose hope.

But had we known how stories worked, we would have easily seen that the one story, my story,  is fiction.

There is no such story. Only many stories. Many my stories by me.
We aren’t protagonists of anything. There isn’t even a coherent story.

Out there is a sea of multitudinous stories, all playing out even as we are thinking them, many many my stories, changing every moment even as we are telling them, and playing out against many other stories of ourselves.

That is how fiction works. That is how stories work.

To understand is to be set free.

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36 thoughts on “My stories”

  1. In the spirit of what you wrote, all I can say is thank goodness for editing and revising. We can revise the plot, cast of characters, and tone. We can add more character development and change the point of view. Make the language more or less direct. There is power in that. I’d never thought about things this way, so thanks for your post.

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  2. Excellent views on storytelling… and so well said! I think that storytelling is ingrained in us as human beings. It is how we relate to other people, it is how we feel, it is how we relate. Without storytelling, we’d simply be making statements (fact or fiction) that are unrelateable. Storytelling allows us to feel emotion; whether we love or hate a character, we are feeling. It is the one universal language that breaks through all barriers (cultural, language, race, etc). If it’s a good story, we will invest our time and emotion into the message much more than if the information was only projected through a statistic or statement. 🙂

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  3. I like to think of my life as a series of stories that many times have no connection. Ever since I started blogging, I have found myself more in tune with the now so that even the most mundane day still has a story. Like fiction, life is what you make of it right? Great post!

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  4. “Some parts make us angry. Some parts make us cry. Some parts are nice. We keep replaying these in our minds over and over again. We choose memories that fit the story. My story.” This caught my attention. What is wrong with someone who plays the bad parts over and over again instead?

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  5. I remember in drama class in high school when we had a professional story teller come in, we were all absolutely captivated as we retold us the story of his life. It wasn’t anything especially remarkable, but simply the manner and tone in which he told us had us gripped. It made us all realise we were still in the opening chapters of our own stories.

    Then he went on to retell the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. Even though we all knew how the story ended, we were again captivated by the way he told the story. It gave me a whole new appreciation for the power of the written and spoken word to convey so many intangible things.

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  6. Reminds me of the opening line of “David Copperfield:” “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

    May we all turn out to be the heroes of our own lives!

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  7. The hardest part about “my story” is reflecting on the very things that we’ve grown up believing to be true about ourselves, and determining that there are things we need to change to become a better person. That, typically, is the lie we perpetuate upon ourselves: we are not the villain.

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  8. “Telling stories is as basic to human beings as eating. More so, in fact, for while food makes us live, stories are what make our lives worth living. They are what make our condition human” (Kearney, 2002, p. 3 – On Stories). Thanks so much for this post!

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  9. I once had a teacher who suggested that writing stories — fictional, true, or anything in between — is vital, not just to have a creative outlet but just for the sake of living. All things considered, I’m inclined to agree.

    In any case, a fantastic post. But I wonder if the world is ready for my story about the time I made my “famous BBQ sandwiches.” Maybe not; it’s a tragedy of the highest caliber.

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    1. Also, Charlotte Linde’s book Life Stories. I was thinking the same thing about this post–that it reminded me of identity theory by sociologists, anthropologists and socio-linguists. It’s totally cool to find someone had the same reaction as me even though I don’t know them!

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  10. This is very much what I have been thinking about. I have started a memoir and so have been reflecting a lot on memories. I have read some other interesting posts on memories also and they say almost the same thing. Our memories are true and not true. They change over time and depend on the spin we put on them. They are what we believe them to be. I am going to reblog this on Crazywonderfullife.

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  11. It’s as though, reincarnation takes place in my story telling. If I owned a world, all would come back this way or perhaps that way, as I change through worlds, by rewriting stories.

    I really like this post.

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  12. The Story of My Life: Lots of drama — and making big deals out of little things — and me feeling like I’m in the middle of the all the drama. ahhhhh…how ridiculous – when I look outside of myself…

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