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On Stories

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We totally look like this when go out. 😂 Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Just after we got back from our trip, I met up with two good friends to see Hakawatis. Unfortunately, the run is over, but I’m sure that if you write to The Globe, they will consider another run.

Hakawatis is basically a retelling of 1001 Nights. Instead of just Scheherazade telling the stories to the king, the entire harem of women who are next in line to marry the lethal man is helping her tell the stories. It’s fantastic, really. The conversations are believable and realistic, and the dynamics between the characters are fascinating. There are several modern winks and references to writing theory (such as a reference to The Seven Basic Plots). The “Arabian” ambience of the story wasn’t done in the “exotic” way that is sometimes used for this sort of setting. It felt more believable, from what I know. However, the place of the story is vague, so it’s hard to relate it to a specific culture.

I went to see this play with my friends, and I found it ironic that we had to stop telling each other stories so that we could watch other women tell each other stories. When I meet my women friends, the conversation is usually in the form of telling stories. Someone tells about a drama with the kids, which leads someone else to tell about a drama with her parents, which leads someone else to tell about the grandparents-grandchildren relationship, and so on. The stories are never told in one go, however. They are interrupted with advice, questions, and little sidetracks that sometimes become whole other stories or topics. We can talk for hours. It’s quite remarkable.

It made me think about stories and how we tell them. Mostly, though: to whom we tell the stories. Do we change the story based on the audience? That depends on the story, I think, and on how many times you’ve told it. I find that the more I tell a story, the more I refine it, the less flexible it becomes. It becomes calcified, set, the "official" version of what happened. It also becomes less emotionally charged, more detached, even (especially) if it’s a highly personal story. It’s interesting to me to examine these stories. How many times have I told this one? Has it set yet? Can it change? Can I change it?

Especially with stories from my childhood, I’m currently interested in changing set stories. Can I change a story even though I have told it hundreds of times and I know for a fact that this is what happened? Would that make me feel differently? See the world differently?

We are made of stories. The stories we tell others become the stories we tell ourselves, and vice versa. Sometimes it’s interesting to see whether we can try on a different story. I find my writing to be precisely this fitting room, where I try on other stories, see if they fit, and decide whether I like them or not.


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