Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Everybody has a story - Mann

As writers we know the importance of the concept of story. Everybody has a story. Some of us are more accepting of our story than others. Sometimes people have difficulty reflecting on their life because of painful memories while others draw creative energies from looking back over the years. The plus side of this is the older you are, the more stories you have. And the older you are, gives you an advantage to the number of people you have either met or been told about.

If you are a genealogist, you have many stories at the finger-tips. Telling them and writing them down are appropriate ways to remember those people who have impressed you in some way. Precious stories, handed down through the generations, are seen through different perspectives when a writer breathes new life into them.

I was recently gifted with several items of my grandmother; with each one came a story which I would have forgotten, had I not held these things in my hand. An anniversary gift, a hand carved piece of wood or a piece of jewellery fill in gaps in her story.

A cousin put a great grandmother’s diary in my hands several weeks ago. Information about relationships, communities and people suddenly read like a novel to me. The difference being of course that I knew of the characters and the historical settings to be true. Even the plot of the story unravelled paragraph after paragraph on that neatly written page laid out a solid plot.
Over the years I have kept family letters. They describe joys, sorrows, accomplishment and failures, openly. There is no judgement, criticism or censure – only appreciation and wonder.

We don’t have to look far into any of our ancestor’s stories to see all the main ingredients of any narrative: goals, conflicts and disaster/reaction, dilemma and decision. They lived it and good plot proves itself in family documents. Asking questions that beg acknowledgement move us further into the plot. What was the one thing that motivated any one of our ancestors to make the decisions they did? Why did they respond to particular events and situation in certain ways? How did they manage to set goals in the midst of such uncertainty of homesteading, building community and sustaining relationships?

Your research and artefacts keep you on track with the personality traits that you have gleaned about individuals. You’re in good company: safe and secure in the arms of history and family culture.

As a child, I remember a package of letters slid into the material of an old truck that sat in a curtained area of an upstairs bedroom in our farmhouse. The red ribbon tied neatly around the letters stated their importance. Although I remember being very curious, I never opened them as they silently spoke of privacy. Later in my life, I noticed they were gone.

So it is with family stories: some are to be shared, retold and interpreted while others simply beg the integrity in which they were created.

Donna Mann
Aggie’s Storms (2007) Brucedale Press (The childhood of Agnes Macphail)
Aggie’s Dream (2010) Brucedale Press (Agnes Macphail’s teenage years)

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

Donna, in this piece you show your storyteller's eye, ear, and heart -- all of which give depth to your writer's voice!
Thank you for your insights.

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