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Don’t Try to Make Your Life Story a Literary Masterpiece

Timothy Kreider and Doug Lipman had some overlapping things to say about life and storytelling:

The narrative form real life most closely resembles is the soap opera — a long, meandering, pointless story without resolution, in which nothing much happens for long stretches, punctuated by the occasional incredible coincidence or improbable tragedy. …Not that we’re obliged to make our lives interesting for the amusement of some imaginary reader-God. There’s a difference between what we want to want … and what we actually want…

…The best fiction acknowledges that character is too complex to define, destiny unguessable: only bad stock characters are consistent and predictable; great literary characters, like people in real life, remain a little elusive, their motives opaque even to themselves.

…For an instant we can almost make out the pattern, and in it is not meaning but beauty.

When storyteller and coach Doug Lipman‘s grandson tasted lemon fizzy water for the first time, he said, “Spicy. Sour. Pfttttt!” Doug wrote:

No English teacher would accept “Spicy. Sour. Pfttttt!” as a sentence; it lacks both a subject and a verb, and the third sound isn’t even a word at all! …In a conversational story, we’d likely react positively to “Spicy. Sour. Pfttttt!” But in a written story, we wouldn’t. Why is this important? Many of us have been taught to create stories by first writing them down and then practicing saying them aloud. …It can be liberating to reduce your dependence on the “script method” of creating stories—and to relearn the “conversational method”

Your personal narrative doesn’t have to Mean Something– or be told according to a system.


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