What’s your story?

Sometimes “what’s your story” is a bully’s taunt. Sometimes it’s a provocative inquiry on a first date. More or less, it means “who are you and/or what are you doing here?”

We spend our lives writing our stories. We’re not always aware of the plots or even the themes. We stack up dreams and hopes like cordwood, or even denials and excuses. Perhaps our stories are more transparent to spouses and friends than they are to us. Not all of us can be read like great novels even though we’re impacted by the tales we discover in books and the memories of others shared around a quiet drink or a backyard barbecue.

If one looks at our stories with the combined eye of a mystic, a shaman, a conjurer, an alchemist, and a quantum scientist, the tapestry of the world’s people becomes a little clearer. We see synchronicities rather than coincidences. We toss out the idea of fate, if not destiny, and maybe on nights when the moon is bright and the flowers and birds are quiet, we glimpse the whole of the world’s stories.

As an author, I like to think that the stories in books–fiction and nonfiction–enlarge our perspectives and help us change course or re-dedicate ourselves to the course already chosen. My quantum view is that every story that can happen, will happen in one universe or another and that we can follow the chains of events that best meet our developing needs for the plots in our own stories.

Reading and listening and observing in a spirit of hope and wonder are so necessary for our progress, it’s difficult to understand why a lot of people don’t read or listen or observe. Have they chosen to close their lives off from the world and/or from themselves? I don’t know, but the result of whatever they’re doing doesn’t seem healthy–or helpful to the world.

I see studies from time to time showing that kids benefit from parents who read to them as well as growing up households full of books. Nonetheless, stories are everywhere and if we’re not finding them on the printed page, I hope we’re finding them in films and paintings and TV shows, and what others tell us whenever we ask “what’s your story?”

The world appears to me as a grand storybook with countless chapters, millions of characters, unlimited locations, and possibilities that expand outward at lightspeed. The fate of nations and peoples and justice and Earth itself has not yet been determined because many of us are writing blind or aren’t aware that the daily scenes in our personal stories contribute to the story of our planet. We’re all linked like the characters in the pages of a well-written novel; I think we’ll like where our combined story goes if we realize this and live accordingly.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Conjure Woman’s Cat.

 

How does your worldview influence your writing?

When you read a hard-as-nails police or espionage novel, do you wonder about the worldview of the author? Do you assume s/he’s politically conservative, possibly career law enforcement or military, and/or heavily interested in weapons, military strategy, law and order issues and personal and national security?

When you read a novel about people coming of age, discovering themselves in hero’s journey styled stories, or finding love among the ruins, do you wonder if the author is writing out of his or her own philosophy of life and “the big picture”? Do you assume s/he is politically liberal, possibly a teacher or a psychologist, and/or heavily interested in social programs, personal and religious freedom and a lifetime of learning?

I’m not sure we should make these assumptions. If we do, we might be surprised how often an author writes “against typecasting.”

worldviewOn the other hand, many of us write short stories and novels that are heavily influenced by our “philosophy of life” or our view of the universe and an individual’s place within it. When I read a page-turning espionage novel and marvel at the author’s knowledge of weapons and tactics, I see quite clearly that I could never write such a book. I have no experience with military weapons and have never been drawn to study them, much less to form a clear picture about their technical differences or what it would be like to use them in a real world situation.

On the other hand, when I read a magical realism novel I assume that the author has an affinity for the magic and the stories generally associated with the time and place in which the story is set. A good researcher can find out what myths and legends might apply to a town or a region. But blending those into a story probably requires a sense of magic just as a spy novel often requires its author to have a sense of weapons and combat situations.

Perhaps somebody has written a doctoral dissertation or a definitive book about stories and the authors who tell them. Perhaps there’s research out there that shows the connections (or lack of connections) between authors’ books and authors’ political/philosophical/religious beliefs.

Personally, I see writing within–or somewhat within–one’s worldview as another way of writing what you know. Expediently, it’s a practical approach because in general terms, our worldview is our comfort zone. We know more about how situations within that view might unfold and how characters embracing our attacking that worldview might develop, react and think. Some (perhaps many) authors might refute this idea by showing how they have been a chameleon–so to speak–by writing books that contrast so greatly with each other that readers could only conclude that they have no worldview at all, have multiple worldviews, or changed their worldviews over time.

That said, perhaps my musings on this subject boil down to this opinion: If you’re an emerging writer, writing from within your worldview gives you a greater chance of “getting it right” than writing about characters and events you don’t grok in your daily life.

That’s my experience. What’s your experience?

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of fantasy (“The Sun Singer,” “Sarabande”), paranormal (“Moonlight and Ghosts,” “Cora’s Crossing), and magical realism (“Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Emily’s Stories,” “Willing Spirits”) novels and stories.