Tuesday, 29 January 2013

A Deep and Meaningful Conversation with my Dogs

Once upon a time there
was a dog called Bodger...
Recently, my dogs asked me why I liked writing stories.
“It’s fun,” I said.
“Do you write about talking dogs?” they said.
And I said, “No, I write about things in real life.”   
“Why would you do that?” they said.

And you know what? I didn't have an answer.

So I've been thinking and googling and reading a few books about it
since, and what I've learned isn't rocket science, but it has helped me to put this whole why-I-am-a-writer thing in perspective.

Telling stories is the language of being human; always has been and always will be. We are hard wired for story. We think in story. We talk in story. We make connections in story. We want to know what happens in the end.

... who met a dog
called Summer...
Take these real life episodes…

1. A man walks down the road and falls into a hole.
“Where? How? Was he hurt?” I hear you ask.

2. The kid next door to me left her tooth under the pillow and her dog ate it…
“Was the kid upset? What happened to the dog? Did the tooth fairy still visit?”

3. There was a woman on the bus, crying into her shopping bag.
“ But why? What about? Did anybody help her?”

See? We want to know all about it. We want to know if things can change. We want to know the outcomes.

We are emotional beings, and stories are about negotiating emotions in a never-ending number of scenarios. Stories give us a framework to understand what’s going on.

Beginning - Middle - End
Conflict - Climax - Resolution

Stories are like a map of the unknown, showing us a path through experiences and emotions that might otherwise leave us feeling lost.  And the world’s a scary place, right? All sorts of shit can hit the fan when you least expect it. And if we don’t have a model of how to deal with it, then what do we do?

Us humans, we don’t like change. We’re goal driven and don't take kindly to detours or dead-ends, and some of us resist more than others. But in all cases, stories help us to plan change, to imagine a different future and how to deal with it. They help us solve problems and develop empathy. And they open our minds to new possibilities and new ways of seeing the world. They may even alter our perception of reality…

But that doesn't really answer my dogs’ question. Why we do I write real life stories?

And I guess the answer is, that I like real people. Escaping into a fantasy world just doesn't work for me. I’m the stranger who sits on the train and watches what others are doing, thinking, and feeling about their life. I’m the weirdo who never forgets a face, and remembers every piece of information I've ever heard about your personal life. I can tell you who ate what at play group,  who was friends with whom, and who bit Toby’s bum. I can tell you who's related to him, what he said when her  mum died, and who's bringing up their baby now. I can even tell you what star signs they are. 

I've got a qualification in psychoanalytical observation, so people watching is just grist to the mill for me, a writer. 

...and 9 weeks later,
Bear was born.
In a previous life, I was a teacher and a hypnotherapist, because I genuinely want stuff to work out for people. I want them to be happy, even though I know that sometimes that’s really not on the cards in the short term. In real life, I don’t always know the way to help a person be happy.

But in a story? I do.

“One last thing,” said my dogs. “Why children? Why write stories for children when there are so many dogs out there looking for answers?”

And do you know what? I'll save the answer for another blog post.


  1. Aw, love this post, Wendy. Stories are real life aren't they? Like you, I am the observer on the train, but I do like to mix it up with a bit of magic now and again ;) Oh, and I am now waiting for my dog to converse with me. I have clearly been offering her the wrong kind of treats.

    1. Well I think there is a story in that - The Dog Who Wouldn't Talk... :)
      Thanks for commenting x

  2. So true Wendy. Thousands of years crouched around the campfire certainly hard-wired story into us, and it may even explain why I am compelled to listen to The Archers, even though I mostly hate it! Or is that a mystery of the universe? (Remind me not to sit near you on the bus)x

    1. Nan, have you read Wired for Story? (By Lisa Cron). Was recommended to me by the lovely Emma Haughton and I reckon it's right up your street. It doesn't however, explain the Archers thingy. That will remain a mystery forever.


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