Friday, October 14, 2016

Choosing Our Storylines

by Joanne Rock

One of the things I enjoy most about writing Superromances is the chance to explore human nature more deeply. Spending more time--more pages-- with my characters allows me to see more facets to them and share them with readers. This is fun for me because I enjoy discovering multiple facets of people in my day to day life, too. Isn't it interesting when someone you are close to reveals a whole other side of themselves that you never suspected? Sometimes, of course, that can be hurtful if the hidden side is negative. But often the revelation is simply fascinating--the bookish recluse is a proficient belly dancer, for example. Or the rough-around-the edges neighbor turns out to be a regular volunteer at the local soup kitchen.

As writers, we need to be careful about revealing anything too surprising about our characters. Our editors are quick to warn us if a plot point--or character dimension-- feels like it comes out of nowhere. But isn't that sort of true to life? The real world is famous for throwing us the curve balls we never saw coming. In my books though, I try to be sure the backstory supports any contradictions in my characters.

In real life, I often choose my story lines for myself too. They can vary widely from day to day, too.
Multiple character points of view
in my latest Superromance!
Have you ever shared a witty story from your marriage with your parents, reminiscing about how you and your significant other got through a tough parenting moment or a date gone wrong? And then, a few days later, you share the same story with a girlfriend, except then you share how frustrated you were with your spouse at the time? We spin stories all the time in our real life. Both stories are true. But there are shades to our emotions and moods-- during the time the actual event happened and during the retelling. Sometimes my husband's spontaneous behavior is cause for laughter and a welcome distraction. Sometimes, the same moment is proof in my case that he's never serious.

(Author side note: I hate to say I ever mount a "case" against my husband, which makes us sound like we are on opposing sides. Ideally, I never do this. Realistically, some days I do!)

My point is... how interesting is that? I can pick and choose bits of my life and make it sound magical. But if I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I can pick and choose the bits of my life that make me sound like a real trooper having a tough go of things. We are all storytellers in our own lives.

My cute husband, who puts up with me
So, back to writing. Knowing how easily we can bend stories to fit our moods and dispositions, how easy does it become to see alternate points of view? I can introduce the crankiest curmudgeon and on another page, reveal the most tender backstory for that character. Or give the sunniest character a dark side. It's interesting for me as a writer and as a human being, I believe it gives me more empathy. I know the guy in the post office who is tapping his foot with impatience has a whole other side. He's not always snarly. And I like to imagine that side of him to help me stay patient with him.

This trick doesn't always work, but it's fun to try. Reading stories gives us the same psychological insights to people too. It's why I try to encourage my kids to read. Not just to improve their vocabulary or reading comprehension, but to understand human nature and to gain empathy. Where else do they have access to the villain's thoughts to understand what makes a person act on their dark instincts? That's a valuable education. It's great for boys to read female point of view and vice versa, too. How helpful to see how the other gender thinks and feels!

I guess that's my public service announcement for the day. Embrace your villains when you can. Remember there are multiple sides to every story. And when your own life is pulling you down, spin your personal tale in a happier direction. You really can choose your own ending.

***Am I crazy? Or have you told varying versions of the same tale depending on the audience and your mood? No need to reveal anything super personal, but I'm curious if your reality is as flexible as mine is!! I'd make the world's worst autobiography writer.... Visit with me today on the blog and I'll give one random commenter a copy of SEDUCING THE MATCHMAKER along with note cards, notepad and a lovely planner.

17 comments:

Mary Preston said...

You really do have to know your audience when telling a tale. I will edit or embellish at will & I'm not even a writer.

Jo's Daughter said...

It SO depends on who your talking to! With some people you can complain a bit more than with others. Some bring out the humor of the situation and with others it's the seriousness of the tale that takes the upper hand. Also telling the same story in exactly the same way over and over can be boring, don't you think?!

Manda Ward said...

If it's a really difficult scenario is try and see it as a scene from a sit com. Thanks for sharing your tips. Manda mrsajward@hotmail.com

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

Can see how adjusting ones thoughts or voice to others is beneficial not just for themselves but others. personally I enjoy the right side of the bed. Lol

Tammy Y said...

Hi Joanne,

I always keep my audience is mind when sharing a tale.

Laney4 said...

I totally get it. After 35 years of marriage, there are some things that I just love about being with my husband. On the other hand, there are things that tick me off to no end (and I'm sure he feels the same way about me). So when someone asks "the secret" of having a marriage last that long (so far), I say that you have to keep reminding yourself of the good things, that the glass is half full, etc., and not dwell on the not-so-good things. It's like having a job you don't like: usually whatever you don't like about the job (often the people) will be the same thing you don't like with your next job, so suck it up buttercup and enjoy the things you DO like about your job. The grass is not always greener on the other side....
Back to your original question, though. Yeah, we can spin stories to focus on those positive things, but if we get up on the wrong side of the bed (as you noted), we can focus on the negative things too.
I have bad arthritis in my knees, so I creak when getting up, etc. Some people think that is just terrible, but my perspective is that I am so lucky to still be able to walk and exercise and enjoy life. Yup, it's all in our perspective at that moment.

Diana Tidlund said...

It depends but with you it doesn't matter cause I have loved and stalked you for years !

Joanne Rock said...

Diana, there is a comfort in long-time friends where-- even on the days when you tell the wrong stories, say things too abruptly, too brusquely or completely inappropriate-- those close to you know where your heart is at :-). That's a real gift!!!

Colleen C. said...

I do think how you shares things depends on the people... to some I give more details...

Tanja Dancy said...

I think this is something that we all do, tell stories differently based on who's listening. Some things you would tell one person, but not another based on your relationship with that person. For instance, I would probaly tell my mother or friend something that I wouldn't tell a co-worker, stranger, or someone I am not as familiar with.

dstoutholcomb said...

definitely change it based on the audience

denise

Tina Carlson said...

It depends on who im talking to if i told more of the storie

Tina Carlson said...

It depends on who im talking to if i told more of the storie

Alyssa said...

I'm no good in storytelling tbh. But whenever I do it, the way I share it will depend to the audience (and sometimes to my mood too).

bn100 said...

don't do that

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Fedora said...

I love that idea--it sounds a little like making the effort to redirect the ending of a dream, to change it from a nightmare to something pleasant ;) (That is probably an extreme version of this!)

I do think that it makes sense to tailor a story to one's audience--I might tell a story slightly differently to my kids than my husband, for instance ;)

Thanks for the fun, thought-provoking post, Joanne!

Joanne Rock said...

Fedora, definitely relating the story different for the kids . Thank you so much for visiting!

I've got a winner name, and this time it's Liz at Cleverly Inked!! I'm emailing you privately, but all you need to do is send me a mailing address at jrock008@gmail.com and i'll put the prize package in the mail for you ASAP!

Until next time, my friends!!

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