Words, Stories and the Heart

Language of the heart

Isn’t this the most wonderful use of words! I was talking to someone recently who was curious about my work as an editor. The book I’m currently working on is a moving story told in approximately 80,000 words. He couldn’t get over that number. How many words! In reality, it’s not an especially large book. Then he confided that he didn’t think he’d ever read that many words at a time, that he’d never read a book.

How sad! I know there are other people out there like him. I’ve met a number of them and recently saw a program about those who are unable to read or write effectively. How does one live without reading? It’s hard for me to imagine living without books and reading.

This made me think though, about how Story is everywhere around us. We use it to amuse, entertain, inform and educate ourselves and others. It’s in the jokes we tell to make people laugh, to illustrate the absurdity of life by exaggeration and fantasy. It’s in the sermons and parables of priests and ministers. It’s in schools and universities, used to illustrate concepts and ideas to assist scholars’ comprehension and understanding.

It’s all over the internet in websites and blogs. It’s on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram where ordinary people can share stories of their lives, their pets, their favourite things, pet peeves, warnings, memes with morales…

The arts are all about story whether it’s in the pictures which tell a thousand words and move us without saying a thing aloud. It’s in the music we listen to when we want to be soothed, stirred or forget ourselves in melody and dance. It’s at theatres in plays, ballets and every other kind of performance. It’s in everything from great literature and novels down to comics, magazines and newspapers.

Turn on the radio or television and there it is, in neat little packages defined by however many minutes or seconds advertisers buy, in news and current affairs, serialised in sitcoms, made-for-tv movies and reruns of blockbuster movies we once bought tickets to see at the cinema. Movies on which mountains of money are spent vying for consumer dollars, Oscars and every other award and accolade for what? For those who tell the best, the worst, the most popular stories.

I can’t imagine what life would be like without reading, without bookcases full of wonderful words and books. But, should the ability to read be taken away, I guess one could find a fix of Story elsewhere. It’s not the same, in my opinion, but for those who cannot read, I guess it’s better than nothing.

What is your favourite form of story?


Truth in lies (1)

Skilful story artists, whether novelist, lyricist, poet or screenwriter, create a deeper, more profound truth using ‘the lie’.

Where does that ‘lie’ come from? In my experience, it percolates in the heart and soul. They take an idea which impacts me deeply, then bubble and boil away until a character, a situation, or a plot emerges, combining to symbolise the heart of a story. My current work in progress centres around the issue of domestic violence.

Using a succession of ‘what if’ questions, using all the empathy and imagination I can muster, I come up with the bare bones of a number of storylines and plots.

From there I research and brainstorm the subject, fleshing it out using a combination empathy, imagination and personal experience, stories I’ve read, heard, seen played out in the lives of others: friends, family or reports in the media, movies, songs until a series of scenes and scenarios emerge.

Distilled over a (usually long) period of time, what I’m aiming for is a blueprint I can use to tell the story of my main characters using their goals, motivations and conflict to concentrate the emotions involved. They struggle, in my current story, against domestic violence, while others see it from all sides.

My aim? Creating empathy in the reader, telling a cracking story which helps them think about and understand the issues and see how people deal with them. The ‘lie’ which, I hope, reveals the truth.


Words are a lens

Perspective is everything. What you see and how you feel depends on your point of view. The same events written from different points of view will necessarily be coloured by a person’s focus.

The choice of point of view character is vital in storytelling. The reader experiences the story through the eyes, experiences, beliefs and attitudes of the character. This, for me, is one of the most interesting aspects of reading a great story written by a good writer.

Experiencing a story through the mind of a well-developed character, learning how they think and feel, understanding their point of view, can be a great learning curve. The resulting empathy broadens one’s mind, can make one a better person.