We need to ask ourselves these three questions:
1. Where does our material come from?
2. How do we begin?
3. How do we tell a story?
Here are some answers for the first question:
Our material, our stories come from a combination of experience / bearing witness / imagination.
Experience needs time and distance. We cannot write about an event, an incident, an experience right away. We need to allow time and distance to convert the raw materials into a subject matter. We need to digest it first; then we can understand it so as to gain perspective, and only then we can turn it into a story.
In this way the story will offer the reader not only facts and information but the understanding that comes from ruminating on the subject, the underlining meaning only contemplation and musing can provide. And that's what the reader wants more than the story itself: the universal significance he or she can apply to her or his life.
What matters is HOW we tell the story, not what the story is.
Bearing witness adds to the pondering necessary in any piece of writing. And our imagination can do the rest. It can fill in the blanks; it can find similar stories to draw upon; it can bring the ineffable, the surprise, making the story live on the page.
THE SOURCE OF STORIES: Writing from experience and imagination
A WORKSHOP COMING THIS FALL AT THE NEWBERRY LIBRARY
SATURDAYS 10-12 pm
To register: go to www.newberry.org