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Is this my story to tell? (1 Viewer)

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robertn51

Friends of WF
Is the question relevant?

"Is this my story to tell?"

It feels a subtle poison.

It feels a barrier to writing something not-me but based in reality.

(It might also be The Abyss launching heavy shit at me to stop me from further work upon my current live project, but that's something else)

"Is this my story to tell?"

In an adult fiction frame, is the question relevant? Should we be concerned about telling stories based upon imagined-people we are not?

I get that fantasy and sci-fi don't have the issue. There we are writing about hopefully true and relevant human things but sheath it all in beings and environments deliberately and, hopefully, interestingly foreign.

But the rest of adult fiction (literary, mystery, thriller, romance, and whatever reality-based category/sub- comes to mind) removes those protections. There I am deliberately writing about imagined real people.

"Is this my story to tell?"

The engendered doubt is palpable.

Must I write only about privileged american plain-white-bread unreligious heterosexual males?

How about you folks? Is the question relevant? Does it come up in your work? Do you have an answer? Does the answer affect your work?

"Is this my story to tell?"

[2021-08-21 1111]
 
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VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
I don't worry about it one bit. If I can imagine the story, it's mine to tell. If I include facts, I do the research to get them right (or try my best). If it's a place I've never been to, I live there for a while online. While we may put pieces of ourselves into characters, everyone we write about is someone we're not. Sometimes the separation is minor, sometimes it's someone completely different. Here's the thing - There are 7 billion people on this planet-some nice, some vicious, some assholes, some educated, some ignorant, some honest, some criminal, some dumb, some brilliant. Any character you write about is real, somewhere ... no matter what PC police might say.
 

Lawless

Senior Member
At first, I thought the answer was obvious – if I have the story within me, it is my story to tell.

A minute later, I became curious. Is the answer REALLY obvious? When I try really hard, can't I think of at least one example of a story that isn't mine to tell?

It occurred to me that a story of horrible suffering which I haven't exprienced but some other people have might be one I should not tell. It's kind of disrespectful to pretend I know their pain when I have no idea. (Of course, it's different when I do know a lot about it from some reliable source. After all, writers can't be expected to actually live through everything they're writing about.)

Later still, I realized that generally one shouldn't write about something one doesn't know about. An obvious example: I've yet to see one English-language writer write about Russians in a way that isn't grossly incompetent. Or a Russian author who set his story in Germany, but he didn't know anything about Germany and he made things happen at a German university that don't happen in German universities. He had a good story to tell all right, but why in heavens name did he set it in Germany?

However, when you stop to think about it, the latter point still doesn't mean the STORY isn't yours to tell. You simply shouldn't set your story in a real place which you don't know. Make it happen in your own country, or make up one, or at least place it in the future. Lack of knowledge or research on the author's part still doesn't invalidate the story.

All in all, I couldn't agree more with the previous commentator's advice not to sweat it.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
I'll take inspiration from someone else's story, but even if I think I am telling it I probably am not, I am telling my own version their reality inspired. I'll probably keep quiet about who and what inspired me, the reader is going to put an interpretation on things as well, I'll just let them get on with it.
 

KatPC

Senior Member
There are cynics, there are supporters. there are your followers, regardless if this is about writing or in general, it is hard to find an answer that satisfies all parties, thus: "Is this my story to tell?" Is: Do you want to tell the story?

In other posts, I have seen debate on plagiarism, stealing. inspired, copied and I could not see any way in which everyone could see things from the same page. Broaden this thinking and if a story inspires, jolts the creative juices inside then must be told. I pondered long and hard about making an entry in last months Writing Challenge, the lone picture of a house and in reality, thinking that every entrant has to create a story within parameters of length but based on that one photo. Writing can come from a chat, a word, a picture, a memory, a past, a story you remember, but all a creation of your take on what is presented in front of you, if you have a story to tell ... please do.

In a life that is finite, stories, music, movies, quotes poke at the inner senses, the infinite ideas that the mind can wonder can inspire, can bring a smile to others, can bring peace to old head. Stories inside the head, are always beautiful, the trick is, if we can get them out for others to see, so they experience the pain, the love, the journey we feel and it all starts with: This is my story.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
I understand the question and the doubt (even the social media haranguing) that causes the question. Looking at this a different way, though, if you're feeling like that question has cropped up perhaps it's an indicator that this story should be a deep dive. Good research, less guessing and imagining but no backing off or standing down if you're passionate about that story. Do your best and don't let fear take your voice.

There was a story in our Sunday newspaper about fifteen years ago about a young girl who had been starved to death by her stepfather. Her mother and her siblings went along with whatever he wanted to do, tying her by the wrist within sight of the family dinner table as punishment for whatever he didn't like. When Children and Youth Services visited to check on the family and the children the stepfather intimidated the CYS agents. Eventually the girl died, abandoned and alone in the attic.

I am not a child who was starved to death so it could be argued that this isn't my story to tell. However, she has no voice and this story makes me very angry. I have written and rewritten a short story about her that never turned out quite to my satisfaction but in no way would I ever accept that I shouldn't tell it.
 

robertn51

Friends of WF
TL;DR:
Thank you all. Your comments have provided me with the perspective needed to quiet my pop-up storm.

Still reading?
Ok.
To your comments

I don't worry about it one bit. If I can imagine the story, it's mine to tell ... Any character you write about is real, somewhere
I get this. I feel the confidence it brings.

My mistake in this instance was confusing something I'd made with something I'd found.

I know that might seem junk and woo-woo and worth an impatient eye-roll, but it is the place from which I most often begin.

I didn't create these two characters; they "came to me" whole cloth. I merely describe them as I would describe you, doing what you do.

Now I know, certainly, I made them. Because I was the only thing around, logically, they came from me, are of me, and all my living to this point. However it was that sense of "found object" that held me up.

Just as I wouldn't presume to know you -- technically, through this medium, another "found object" -- I was feeling presumptuous to know these characters and have them realistically become story.

What changed for me? I quietly looked awhile at the two of them just as they had come. And then I "asked them" what they were. They both eventually replied with "refugee"; one kept eye contact and struggled through a speech impediment, the other looked away and struggled through suppressed shame.

At "refugee" I realized why they came to me as they were, each sheathed as politically- and culturally- charged objects. (Hence my earlier trepidations about it being "my story.")

Then I rudely flipped through different physical possibilities for the two of them, centering on "refugee" and nope, those initial two were the ones that would carry the story.

I've never before recognized myself as a refugee.

Mine. A challenging surprise. But all mine.

...still doesn't mean the STORY isn't yours to tell. You simply shouldn't set your story in a real place which you don't know.
Yes. So I set it in a collage of places I do know. All but one: The one captured in that painting of that "House by the Road". And that place, by the rules of game, I get to imagine.

I am telling my own version their reality inspired. ...the reader is going to put an interpretation on things as well, I'll just let them get on with it.
Yes. In fact we need them to interpret, to translate from words to experience. I might upset some people by my imagery and choices and that's okay, our worlds don't intersect. But others might be nudged to see things differently, no?

Do you want to tell the story?
... if we can get them out for others to see, so they experience the pain, the love, the journey we feel and it all starts with: This is my story.
It's my wanting that's causing all the problems. I should just shut up and do it. Yes I want to tell the story, to be telling the story.

Someday I might call it my story; for now it is enough to be a story I am writing.

...if you're feeling like that question has cropped up perhaps it's an indicator that this story should be a deep dive. Good research, less guessing and imagining but no backing off or standing down if you're passionate about that story. Do your best and don't let fear take your voice.
You've touched the live wire here.

The story is hugely important to me. It's the first thing resembling what I was doing 20 years ago, the first sign this writing-thing might still be in here and can be coaxed back to full and ripe life.

Interestingly it was my contemplation of something you said elsewhere in another context...
I want to know what story these characters are involved in
...that caused me to wander out into this slippery slope.

I was considering the characters independent from the story they presented. That was my mistake and I carried it much too far. These characters are the story. And the story is mine.

Mine now.
Fight me.
You're on.
My story.
Mine.
A challenging surprise, but all mine.

[2021-08-24 1821]
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
What changed for me? I quietly looked awhile at the two of them just as they had come. And then I "asked them" what they were. They both eventually replied with "refugee"; one kept eye contact and struggled through a speech impediment, the other looked away and struggled through suppressed shame.

You're on.
My story.
Mine.
A challenging surprise, but all mine.
These two burst into life in just these few words. If that doesn't beg a story I don't know what does. You've obviously got compassion and sympathy toward who they are.

Happy to have helped provide a nudge now it's all you. I'm really looking forward to your work.
 
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