Can I Tell You a Story?
By kmcdade on October 29, 2008
I loved reading The Yellow Wallpaper. It's a heartbreaking story, but so well written and accurate. I was happy to write a paper about it for my literature class, and thought I did a good job. After all, I had learned to write proper sentences, paragraphs, essays, and reports way back in elementary school. My teachers had always praised me, and I'd even won an essay contest in middle school.
So I wasn't worried when I took my paper to the Writing Center to be critiqued by a graduate student. I think I only went to the Writing center in the first place because we got extra credit for doing so.
As you might guess, the critique was a bit of a shock.
"Your grammar and structure are perfectly correct, but there's just no life to it. It's dry."
I don't recall whether she gave me any ideas for correcting this. I do know that I've never forgotten it, and for a long time took it to mean that I really couldn't write anything that other people would want to read.
I"m still struggling with this, even though I'm now a published writer. I worry that what I write isn't lively and engaging enough, or worse yet, that it's not as good as other people's writing!
I know that one thing I need to work on is telling stories instead of just giving information. But what kind of stories do people want to hear? For instance, today I wrote briefly about my experiences as a Rocky Horror Picture show cast member (in the live amateur shows, not the movie!). I knew what I wanted to say, but didn't know how to express that in a story.
Laura Ingalls Wilder once said:
I have learned in this work that when I went as far back in my memory as I could and left my mind there awhile it would go farther back and still farther, bringing out of the dimness of the past things that were beyond my ordinary remembrance. Also, to my surprise, I have discovered that I have led a very interesting life.
I need to practice this discipline of memory; to find the stories in my life, so that I can pass them on to others.
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