Thursday, July 1, 2010

What Does the Word "Story" Mean to You?

I did an interview recently in The Short Review (which also featured A.J. Kirby's insightful review of my story collection, Precarious).

I tried to keep my answers short because that's my strategy to avoid boring people. It's been my strategy since I was in the first grade, but that's another story.

No, that's not fair. I'll tell you.

A classmate asked me what I got for Christmas and I started with the mundane stuff like new pajamas and socks. The kid turned away before I got to the really cool thing, a slot-car set, probably the best present a boy could get back then.

So, lesson learned.

Back here in the future I was asked, “What does the word 'story' mean to you?”

Good question. I had never been asked that before. Never really thought about, either.

I said, “I guess a story is what we tell ourselves to make sense of our lives. The stories may not be factual but they are as true as we can make them … or as true as we can stand to make them.”

I left it at that because shorter is always better and because I couldn't remember all the stuff I'd heard about memory not being reliable so we fill in the blanks with whatever makes the most sense and over time that becomes part of our so-called memory.

I also meant to imply that we sometimes make up stories to fool ourselves, but you got that, right?

At a party once, someone asked me, "How many of your stories are based on your own life?"

"Three," I said.

I wouldn't say which three.

The truth is I would have a hard time separating fact from fiction in those stories. Did that happen to me or did I make it up? I'm not sure.

“But,” as Ken Kesey wrote, “it's the truth even if it didn't happen."

1 comment:

(M)ary said...

'What is a story?'

Good question. However, I am wondering as I struggle to write a short story or novel, 'what is a story worth writing?' ( I am not EVEN going to tackle the question of what is worth publishing. )