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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Novels...and Other Lies

by Connie Berry

I've always been a story-teller. A good thing, right?

Well, not when you're a child and the stories you tell are actually fibs (lies, if you insist on accuracy). I loved making things up—not to get out of trouble or cover some misdeed, but to get a little excitement going, to embellish the truth just enough to make the story wonderful. 

In department stores, I would slip away from my mother so I could tell a friendly sales clerk I was lost. This created loads of excitement and fun things like dramatic announcements over the loud speaker. And sometimes candy. Frequently when my mother's friends would gather for a coffee morning (women did stuff like that then), I would announce she had a baby in her tummy. She didn't, but wouldn't it have been wonderful?

I told my Sunday School teacher once that my father had broken his leg that morning. When the story made it around to my grandmother, who had her whole Bible class praying for him, I knew I was in trouble.

Another time I insisted I'd seen a tiny elf-like man peek out of a miniature door hidden in the base of a tree near my house. I wrote a story about that one, which my parents must have considered a step in the right direction.

To encourage me toward truthfulness, my mother bought me a
book, The Most Wonderful Doll in the World by Phyllis McGinley. The story is about Dulcy, a little girl whose memory of a lost doll becomes more wonderful and exaggerated each time she tells about it. Like me, Dulcy was a child with a run-away imagination and a nature that found it "hard to be satisfied with Things As They Are." My mother was right. I was always wondering "what would happen if…?" Adding in a few extra details made Things As They Are so much more interesting.

Now I'm all grown up. I know the difference between telling lies and creating fiction. But the love of stories has never left me. In fact, possessing an over-active imagination is an asset to a writer. I can make up as many tales as I like, and asking "what would happen if…" leads to some great plot twists. One of the things I love best about writing mystery stories is the freedom to create new worlds, populated by interesting characters in unusual settings who find themselves facing unlikely situations. 

We make it all up and call it a novel.

Are you a storyteller? What aspects of your childhood predisposed you to reading or writing fiction?



Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Story-telling around the dinner table anchored my childhood. My parents didn't censure my reading, until a friend loaned me Valley of the Dolls. Mom said she'd read it first "in case I had any questions".

Grace Topping said...

I'm glad you kept on telling your stories. You obviously were meant to be a writer. Keep it up.

Susan said...

My entire family were readers. Both my parents and my older brother were avid readers, and we often talked about books. I wrote stories and even had a neighborhood newspaper when I was young. We also wrote and produced plays. I was never athletic and suffered severely from asthma, so I had a lot of time to be quiet and read. Sounds to me like you had a much more exciting childhood!

Connie Berry said...

Exciting is one way to put it, Susan! I wrote plays, too. Usually for family Christmas parties.

KM Rockwood said...

I always had an active imagination as a kid, but learned early to keep the stories to myself. I had regular characters who I put in various situations, often based upon what was going on around me. An early series! Now I write the stories out, and it's a lot more satisfying.

Carol Pouliot said...

You've got me laughing out loud, Connie. I can relate!!