Friday 11 May 2012

The story trap

Stories, they are everywhere. If there's one thing I can't blame my writer's constipation on, it's lack of stories. The newspaper this morning told me how a girl's life was ruined by a gang of asian rapists who groomed her with cigarettes and alcohol for a couple of weeks before abusing her four times a day, for months. When despair brought her to vandalise one of the rapists' kebab shop and the police arrested her, she finally reported her ordeal. But the police simply told her she wasn't a reliable witness, and when she was released, the gang continued their abuse.

The newspaper on the way home tells the story of a student who got drunk, fell off a roof and died. There is a picture of when she was alive: laughing intensely, carefree. It isn't hard to imagine her saying yes to a spontaneous but stupid idea such as climbing a roof when drunk. Would she have been able to laugh so happily in that picture, had she been the type of girl that doesn't take unnecessary risks?

Look up from the paper and see the skinny girl - no belly whatsoever- with on her coat a button that says "baby on board". Next to her, a heavy gentleman, frowning, holding his biro (cap on the rear) as if it's a quill, filling in the easy sudoku in this morning's Metro. Standing: a couple with suitcases. You can tell they're together by the silence between them. No strangers would ignore each other like this, not even in London.
Hatter. © Chutney Bannister
Stories aplenty. So what is it that stops me from telling them?
I ask myself this question at least twice a day - that's almost as often as I think about sex.
You'd think that by now I would have come up with an acceptable answer. Perhaps I am not a writer, maybe it makes me sad to lock free range stories up in confined sentences - even if it is for breeding purposes and might be the only way to save them from extinction. There's the fact that I can be plain lazy at times, and my creative applejuices are probably drained during office hours. Still, I don't feel any of those explanations do the situation justice.

There is an element of fear in my refusal to write. Looking at mistakes I have made before, I lose the courage to start again. "But every road to improvement is a paved with mistakes," I tell myself, "and if it were easy, everyone would do it."
Would they? Would others really dedicate time to writing stories, if they could? For some reason, I doubt it. Because the question they would ask themselves is the one I am struggling with myself, which happens to be the most frightening of them all:
What's the point?  


  1. The point could be to entertain yourself and your readers. Maybe these tragic news items are not where you should be looking. How would a story about them be any better than the truth?

  2. I don't think someone who was not a natural and talented writer could have expressed this so eloquently!

    Everyone goes through times when they're forging ahead and times when they have to stop and take stock, to check their bearings and where they're aiming for.

  3. @Gorilla Bananas Telling someone's story doesn't have to mean making up nonsense about them - I think what makes these stories worth telling is that they really happened to people.
    Considering your circus background, it makes sense that entertainment is the point of what you do.

    @Anonymous thanks, both for the compliment and the consoling words.