When you write a story, whether you’re spinning one through creativity and imagination, or narrating an experience, what is most significant is how you tell the story. The best part? It’s yours to tell.
One of the most difficult aspects of narrating a story, a story which includes people other than yourself, is that people can argue that you’re telling it wrong. “It didn’t happen that way!” “You’re telling it all wrong!” “You sound so self-absorbed!” The thing is, it’s your story. Your point of view; your feelings, thoughts, words that you felt and relayed – moments that you’re tracing, moments that you remember in your own way, because they’re yours. No one can tell you that your emotions are wrong or that your opinions are invalid. How could they – when you’re the one that felt them, and you’re the one that forms them?
The trouble with using real life experiences in your writing lies within the roles people played in those experiences. You may feel a certain way about someone and you may assume certain things about someone, and it could all be completely wrong in the most technical and realistic way, but nothing is quite realistic when your emotions are rushing from every pore on your body. We tend to characterize the people we meet, and when their actions negatively or positively affect us, as writers, we tend to make sure that the clarity of their intentions and behaviors is only as clear as our minds and hearts. There may be no right or wrong, but there sure is postulation.
The problem with writing about others, especially in a negative way, is that they will automatically hate you and your writing for it. Writers have the ability to feel, and good writers have the ability to make others feel. But, when those feelings seem personal, a writer’s credibility can easily be questioned on the basis of presumption and scornfulness. And your characters, in real life, will affirm that your story is wrong. When someone claims that you told your story wrong, all you can ever ask of them is to write their story, and hope that they can write it as well as you did.
The best part about being alive is that you have your own soul, and the eyes and ears and brain and heart that come along with it, that will be there to help you recollect and retell your story over and over again. Know that you don’t share those things with anyone else, you literally don’t – it is all yours – and so whatever comes along with it is completely, 100%, all you. No one can tell you any different. Write.
Photo taken at the Paul J. Getty Museum is Los Angeles, CA.