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A friend of mine told me that when she was a little girl, her parents would see a motion picture every Saturday night. When they returned home, she would snuggle between them and say, “Tell me the story.” Her parents told her about the stars who portrayed the characters, how the plot unfolded, and the location where the action took place. After their narrative came to the end, she would say, “That was pretty good. Now tell me the story the way you want it to happen.”
Writers are like my friend. We listen to stories, watch people as they pass, eavesdrop on conversations, and store memories good and bad for future use. We think about the premise, a story line, the foibles of each character, sometimes an ending that will surprise us as well as our characters but an ending that is true, plausible and inevitable while keeping in mind that an ending based on fact may be unbelievable on the page.
Our job is to create a story for our readers that will let them relate to characters that are, funny, sad, desperate, and cruel—characters motivated to walk down the path we’ve set for them to accomplish their fictional reality. An ending that will make the reader think—Yes. That’s the way it had to happen.
People have been telling tales since the days our ancestors sat around their camp fires and elaborated on the hunt, the wild beasts they challenged or another clan they would conquer. Stories told verbally—legends, fairy tales, folklore are passed from generation to generation—each adding their own spin. Tales are told and endure. Tales of Big Foot, the Fountain of Youth, King Arthur, Robin Hood,
and Remus, Romeo and Juliet and William Tell. Legends—a starting place for folklore—incorporates history, culture and particular societies. Narratives in the Western world include children’s rhymes and ghost stories and religions all begin with the premise of a greater power before they take different paths. Romulus
What stories do you remember being told by your parents, grandparents, and friends? How many do we share?