What do Your Stories Reflect?

The test of a book’s quality is not if it reflects my life, but if it reflects yours. ~E. L. Doctorow

I came across this quote this week and fell immediately in love with it. How very true that if readers cannot connect with our story, if they don’t see some of themselves in it, then it will fall flat. I’m having this issue with the book I’m currently reading, because I can’t relate at all to the protagonist or his life (though I’m sure someone might). And even though the author is clever and writes interesting dialogue that has made me laugh out loud on several occasions, I still can’t get into the story. I just don’t care.

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by Gizem Vural

I think the same sentiment could be used for social media, and blogging in particular. Facts, laundry lists, announcements, proclamations are sometimes useful, but if you neglect the human story, people might lose interest. As humans we want to be drawn in and made to feel something.

I heard a writer on a panel say nothing bored her more than writers who blogged about their writing process (which is hi-la-ri-ous, because I’ve been asked to partake in a blog hop about my writing process). I agree with her to a point. If all a blogger writes about her progress like a report or her process just as a process itself, yes, that can get dull. But great bloggers manage to weave process into story and give us a glimpse of life. An example might be Libba Bray’s moving blog post about depression (which is definitely part of the process for many writers).

Other blogging writers who manage to weave story into posts about their writing are Kelly Barnhill, Kate Johnston, and Jennifer D. Munro. And you don’t have to be a “writer” to do this. One of my favourite posts ever (I’ll link it up here if I can find it again!) was on a cooking blog where the blogger told a beautiful and funny story about being really tired before she posted her recipe. There are also folks I call professional bloggers who tell great life stories, like Wait, But Why and Hyperbole-and-a-Half

I think this is one reason I blog so sporadically. Unless it’s an announcement or giveaway or straight forward like that, I want the post to tell a story. I don’t want every post to be an announcement or report or process play-by-play. Luckily, the blogging world has become far more accepting of the once-per-week post. Appreciates it, even, because there are so, so, so many of us out there.

Are there any inspiring blogger/storytellers you read often? Please share!

 

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4 Comments

  1. 4amWriter
    Jun 8, 2014

    Thanks for the shout-out. :) I agree with you about story-like blog posts being more interesting. Good tip to remember!

    • Danika Dinsmore
      Jun 8, 2014

      Well, you already do it, whether you’re conscious of it or not. I think it’s why you have to many loyal followers. You draw them into your world. :-)

  2. Derald Breneman
    Jun 10, 2014

    The test of a book’s quality is not if it reflects my life, but if it reflects yours. ~E. L. Doctorow

    I’ve been mulling Doctorow’s comment and I can’t agree with it. I started this mulling process by recalling books I’ve liked. THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER didn’t reflect my life growing up in Hawaii at all but I loved it. Then (still in Hawaii) I became fascinated with fur traders, scouts, and Indians of the frontier days. As a teenager (still in Hawaii) I read a lot of Faulkner and tried to figure out what kind of creature a Snopes was. None of this literature reflected my life but it sure snagged my imagination. For me, a better test of a book’s quality would be how well it engages my imagination. Of course, great literature “reflects” your life by intimately exposing the human condition we all share. I could cut ELD some slack and say that’s what he was trying to say. But I won’t, because anything that movingly reflects my life also reflects yours.

    • Danika
      Jun 10, 2014

      Hi Derald! I’ve been mulling over your response! :-)

      I do actually think Doctorow is speaking about how a story “reflects” your life by “exposing the human condition” as you say. At least I assumed he was speaking of a larger Truth. I’m sure he’d say great fantasy and science fiction stories, that have nothing to do with any of our personal lives, can reflect us as a people on this earth.

      When I was in 6th grade I loved James Harriet’s All Creatures Great and Small series, yet knew nothing about farms or being a middle aged vet. Yet I was drawn into the stories because the character’s awe of life and his compassion reflected my own. The stories were so authentic, and yes, they were semi-autobiographical, but they were never self-indulgent.

      In the book I mentioned that I couldn’t get drawn into, it felt to me that the author was over-aware of his own cleverness. It read as self-indulgent, and this kept me at arm’s length from it.

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