I was pondering my next novel today and a sketchy story line started forming in my mind. As I pondered the outline of the story, I realized that in order to form the plot, I had to ask questions. Questions about the characters. Questions about their personalities. Questions about their relationship to other characters. Questions that uncovered OTHER characters and other stories. Stories about stories. That's when it hit me that "every story has a story". Think about it. Your life is a story. But it didn't START with you. It started with your parents. They had a story that "begat" you. Likewise, THEIR story had a story that started with THEIR parents. And so on and so on...
"every story has a story"
It's like a perpetual door that keeps opening up another door to another story. And therein lies the mystery in reading a fiction novel. You're only TOLD the story the author wants you to know. For example, the main character may be a single mother of two kids, but the writer may not have told you what happened to her children's father. That is ANOTHER part of her STORY. It may not matter in regards to the story line the author wrote, but to the reader, it opens up a DOOR to another STORY. A story of her past. A question that the author left open-ended for the reader to wonder about. A mystery that may or may NOT ever be solved.
It also works the other way. A story can have a unknown PAST story OR an unknown FUTURE story. Say you get to the END of a novel and the characters "lived happily ever after". But did they REALLY? Who's to say they didn't get tired of each other after five years, got a quickie divorce and went their separate ways? Or maybe they fell on hard times and ended up on the streets. Or were diagnosed with an incurable disease. What's their "story after the story?" There again, the reader is left with unanswered questions and endless possibilities. Most readers don't mind, and are content with the "happily ever after" conclusion. But for others, there's always that nagging "cliffhanger" that leaves them hungering for more story. The story AFTER the story.
Every story has a story. I guess that's why soap operas have always been so popular. They realize that every story has a story, and that the story doesn't end. Ever. Flashbacks answer questions about PAST stories, and new episodes answer questions about FUTURE stories. It's the "hook" that keeps viewers coming back every day, even though they KNOW the story doesn't end then, either. And why mini-series and reality shows are so popular. The viewer is left hopelessly hanging from one story to the next. Addicted to the story. Oblivious to the fact that it will NEVER end. Even when a new season starts, the old story STILL goes on.
As a writer, I get to create stories. I literally "breathe life" into imaginary characters and give them ANY kind of life I want! Because I am writing THEIR story. Past, present and future. It's an incredibly POWERFUL gift. And a daunting task. Because I'm not only creating a character - I'm creating their STORY. The pertinent information I give about a character will determine how the reader interprets that person's personality, character and their role all the way throughout the book. And their story. But interpretation is a mystery in itself. Because not everyone asks the same questions. Therefore, not everyone gets the same answers, or comes to the same conclusions. So, as a writer, while I may or may not give certain information about a character, my readers will ultimately "fill in the blanks" to the missing parts themselves, and come to their OWN conclusions about the characters "story". And if you think about it, that makes my readers sort of like "co-authors". Ghost writers, if you will! They are "writing the story behind the story."
Even in real life, everyone has a story behind the story. Everything you are, everything you've done, everywhere you've been all started with a story, that had another story before that. And no matter WHERE you are in your life right now, your story doesn't end there. Even if you die. Your story will live on. Because a part of you is left SOMEWHERE in this world that will perpetrate your story to infinity in some way or another. Your story has a story. A NEVER ENDING story!
I'm going to end this blog entry with a true story about a young Australian woman who recently died of cancer at the very young age of 27 years old. Just days before she died, she penned a very simple and beautiful letter about "the meaning of life", and her very meek and humble advice on how to live life to its fullest. (Click here to read her last (but not final) story.) She shared her letter on Facebook, which is where I first saw it. I almost didn't click on it, but something urged me to read it anyway. I'm so glad I did.
While not the most eloquently or grammatically correct written letter, it was beautifully pure and honest. This young dying girl telling the living world about the "meaning of life", and "a bit of life advice". The irony of her words were so deeply thought provoking, that everything else around me faded into gray into the background for that few minutes I was reading. And even as I drove to a meeting afterwards, I still couldn't help but think about this young woman that I didn't know from Adam, but yet who had touched me so profoundly with her simple words. Her last story. But not her final one. Thanks to her simply penned words (and the internet), her story will go on and on - each time her letter is seen and shared. At only 27 years old, she will probably have made MORE of a lasting impact on this world than most people will in a lifetime. But not because she died such a young and tragic death; but because she chose to write the story AFTER the story. A story that could be remembered forever. A story with a story - both past and future.
Every story has a story. As it is in writing - and in life...