Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Story We Tell

by Elizabeth

I'm still feeling the roll of the ship. I am back from an Alaskan cruise with my family and friends, and as with every cruise I've ever taken, the movement of the waves is felt only after I am back on dry land. Today is the fifth day back on terra firma, and I'm hopeful that it's the last one I feel the gentle to and fro of movement that isn't there.

It's the price I pay for sometimes exploring a little bit of the world from the deck of a ship, a price I willingly pay and will likely pay again. Funny to me, how I feel the seasickness (mercifully minus the sick part) after the fact, while so many others stick a patch behind their ear and maybe ditch the rolling sensation, and maybe don't.

It's a difference in perception, I guess, and thinking about it now, while this particular instance isn't one of choice, so often our perception is. Or maybe not so much a choice, but how we tell it is. The cruise I just disembarked from is a good example of this. There are dozens of stories I could tell about it, all of them true, but how different they are. I could tell this story, one you'd expect from Alaska:

The Misty Fjords via seaplane near Ketchikan, Alaska

or I could tell this one, a story that is perhaps more told than the one above:
Rowen, aka "Washy Washy" of the Norwegian Jewel
They are both good stories, really, and even the same day, the same characters, but very, very different. Obviously.
I think this is what editors and agents and that smart guy in your writing group mean when they tell you that you are the only one who can write your story. Give two people identical experiences, and you will still get two different stories. I might write about my kids blowing a piece of reef kelp like a horn, and someone else will spin a tale of a whale breaching off the shore of Juneau, and yet another of the thousands of horses lost to gold fever on the muddy trail to the Klondike. Same trip, different stories, and none of them quite the same.
What they might have in common? Authenticity. And what is this all about? A reminder, to you, and to me, to write what you write, the way you write it, to make it right.

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