How To Tell an Untellable Story

Ever had a story that you were itching to tell the world but couldn't because you were scared of getting in trouble? Read on...

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how to write a memoir

Have you ever heard about the magical powers of mixing and merging stories?

Yup. You read that right!

People relate to emotions, not facts.

Here’s the thing: people relate to how you felt, not what happened.

Like, say you’re telling the story of the day your dog died and you’re describing how horrible it felt:

The moment you understood, everything started swirling around you, and it felt like the air was sucked out of your lungs. You wondered how, how this had happened when everything was going so fine just days ago. What were you gonna do now? And most importantly, how would you survive? How could you go back home to your apartment, with his stuff and sweet memories all over the place? How could you make it in a world where the cute pair that you were doesn’t exist anymore?

Well, if this was a scene in a movie, anyone who’s lost a loved one – human or animal – to death, a breakup or anything else, would relate to those initial thoughts and feelings. But not only!

So could someone who’s ever been in shock after receiving unexpected bad news in general – losing a job, finding out that your partner is cheating, being rejected to the audition you’ve trained all your life to pass…

Whatever it is that you’re talking about, people will relate to the FEELINGS that you share.

Now, to my second point:

In one of my recent posts, I talked about how writing about an experience can be therapeutic.

To me, it totally is. And sharing it is part of the deal as well because as I post my experience on the Internet AND people see it, I feel like it no longer belongs to my inner space. It’s like gently shooing that story off: Go, go, you belong to the world now! Go!

The only problem with writing and sharing your story is that sometimes it involves other people

And as much as you want to share your experience, thoughts and feelings, you sometimes feel like you can’t really fully tell your story and share it. No “Buh-bye you belong to the world” for you, because anything you keep secret stays tied to you.

But wait! There’s a workaround!

***

Here’s how to write a memoir and get the therapeutic benefits of telling and sharing your story, without revealing it fully.

As I explained before, people relate to emotions. There may be billions of stories, but according to science, there are only 27 emotions experienced by humans.

And THAT is why you can mix and merge stories.

How?

Say you want to talk about your angry boss, but you can’t, cos…they’re your boss! How about you borrow the framework from another story, say your really annoying former neighbour, and fill in the emotions with those your boss makes you feel?

You could tell the story of your neighbour pestering you because of a parking spot, and describe how your skin would crawl and your stomach would get in a knot every time your neighbour would call your name, except those emotions are actually what your BOSS makes you feel.

Like a copy-paste from one story into another.

You could talk about how sweaty your palms would get every time he’d get near you. How your heart raced. How his stale breath made you want to throw up.

You could talk about how he’d been pushing your buttons so much that you secretly fantasised about taking a baseball bat and destroying the shit out of his car.

You can write all this, and still write a true story.

You can borrow details from all the stories you’ve lived and insert them in the stories you tell. I did that in my last #myboyfriendatthetime story on my page. The facts and framework of that story are definitely what happened with Vlad. But when I went to describe how small he made me feel, I dug into another story. An untellable story.

I didn’t lie. I just used a story that made it easier for me to convey how I felt. 

Fiction writers often borrow inspiration from real life. You can do that too as a memoir writer.

You’ve got the creative license to borrow, mix and merge your stories so that you still get to tell them, without telling them all.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think about merging stories?

As a writer, do you feel like it’s cheating if you borrow emotions from another story?

As a reader, would a story lose its impact because it’s actually a “merged” story?

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