Everyone has a story

It’s nearly midnight and I’m settling down to write.  Not even write, exactly, more type up something that I wrote a couple of weeks ago.  The holiday season is not exactly conducive to active creativity.

What it has been good for, though, is making connections with people.  I went to  an early Christmas dinner at my church this week, and at the table with us sat an elderly lady named Dorris, who’s 81, and spends her time “taking care of the elderly.”  I’ve known this lady was a gem for a while now, but I rarely get to talk to her except for a dinners like this, and while she may not look like much, she has some fascinating stories to tell.

I knew already that she’d been a nun her entire adult life, had even grown up in a Catholic abbey.  What I did not know is that she was sent there as a child to be “hushed up,” because she was the product of one of her father’s illicit affairs.  Scandalous!

What I love about listening to this woman is that she’s so matter-of-fact in the way she talks about her life.  Every fact is a fact, and nothing more, and there’s something incredibly powerful in that.  I wonder sometimes if I try too hard to tell my audience what to feel, rather than simply let them feel it for themselves.  I think about the economy of language quite often, but the economy of emotion is something that sneaks up on me.  I forget about it.

Dorris is a good story-teller, though, and she does it without too many words, or too much hype.  I think that’s something that’s slowly being lost in the world of today’s literature.  Everyone wants a book they can sell the movie rights for, that’ll end up being a blockbuster.  A Twilight, if you will.  Or more rightfully, a Harry Potter, perhaps.

There’s nothing wrong with blockbusters.  But there’s something to be said for little old ladies with matter-of-fact details.  Something to be said for the everyday person.  That’s who the audience is, after all.  Everyday people.  I worry a bit, for future readers, if all they can read is the fantastic, the larger-than-life, because if we forget to value real-world circumstances, otherworldly ones will end up falling in on themselves.

And now it’s late, and I’ve gotten caught up, and I don’t know if I’ll do that typing-up tonight after all.  Staying up nights wouldn’t be such a problem if I didn’t enjoy getting up early, now would it?


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