The Art of Storytelling

Nonfiction is where I shine. When you’re obscenely direct as an human-being, to the point where your honesty has been called, “intimidating” by others, you should stick with what you know and what you are solid at. Over a decade ago, I decided to test myself and began writing fiction. I think my migraines got worse as a result.

Fiction is a whole other beast for a person whose primary focus is honesty. It’s the curveball you’re not expecting when you step up to the plate. It is challenging. Perhaps that’s part of the allure. I’m the type o personality which will tell you to throw the fucking ball right at me. I’ll catch it or I won’t, but more often than not, I’m catching.

I had written a solid starter novel which I ended up shelving because I felt like it had already been done so many times before. No one wants to write a cliche, even though they sell. I now know the timing of my work coincides with some current life events. Despite my ability to tell a story differently and my OCD attention to detail, I realize now it did nothing to boost my confidence as a writer, because fiction is not my safe space. I live in my head enough that fiction should be incredibly easy, but it isn’t. I have no shame in admitting that.

Slowly, over the past six months or so, I started parceling out parts of that starter novel to other projects. I had written so many fantastic scenes, and another writer had told me to save everything. “Write more than you know you will need, because those scenes can always be used up the road.” She was right, and it was something I’d been doing my entire career. I always save partially written scenes and see them come alive months, or years, later. I draft so many ideas which are brilliant in the moment, as many writers do, but when something nudges me and tells me the story needs to be written, and I have to tell it, that’s when I make a concerted effort to listen to that message. When I need a break, I take a break. I come back to the material in a fresh way, and it always feels better when I do. I like coming back to several hundred pages and being so involved in the story, I completely forget I wrote it. For me, that is what a gifted storyteller does.

I’m working on something new right now. It’s one of those things I began writing out of nowhere about a week and a half ago. I found myself inspired by very specific honesty, integrity, and energy, and decided to put ink to paper. Essentially, I wanted it to be larger than life.

The art of storytelling is to tell the story your way; leaving the opinions of others where they belong. It’s a different way for me to use my voice, and still share and discuss issues I deem important. I pulled myself out of a box and opened up on a level I am proud to put on a page.

I’ve written twenty-three thousand words, thus far. None of which I’d cut (I’ve already done some of that.). These characters are so unlike those I’ve written before. I wanted to be more inclusive, and so far, so good. It requires going into a different head space, but that’s part of what I like about it. I want the cultures and flavors to be present from cover to cover.

I’ve learned so much about myself while exploring fiction as an alternative avenue. One of the most important things is to make sure you’re telling a story for the right reasons. I looked at my typical lead characters and decided to switch shit up in a big way; which is deeply important to me. It adds depth to the storytelling. I want those first few pages to grab you, and this is something I’ve always been able to do. Grab someone’s attention for the full ride.

I find all of this works best when you have someone to refer back to as inspiration. I lucked out there, and had been a bit blind without realizing it, which is mentally and emotionally embarrassing. I’m grateful for the enlightenment, though. I can only describe it as a soulmate moment. I have nothing else to compare it to, other than the automatic knowledge that you’ve met someone who is part of your journey, whether it’s permanent, from a past life, or a soul acknowledgement. You feel it from head to toe. You automatically know things you shouldn’t know. You can read them as though you’re looking in a mirror. This has happened to me a handful of times, but this feels so much deeper, and it’s impossible to ignore.

Being able to see something so serious through someone else’s eyes is an important aspect of both personal and professional development. I want to say the absolute lack of aggression and hostility is what hit me the most. The approach had zero malice. The kindness, compassion, emotional intelligence, and deep empathy reached my soul, and I know I am a better person for paying attention and listening. I am still listening, and will continue to do so, because the lens is clear for me now, where before, I couldn’t connect. The inability to connect was completely on me, but again, the approach had a lot to do with my receptiveness. I rarely connect with a person on such a level, but when I do, it is deeply meaningful. I always ask for guidance, and the Universe heard me loud and clear.

Writing multicultural characters helps me connect with my own cultures, as well as those which are currently foreign to me. It broadens the horizons. I have always connected through my love of languages, art, architecture, and individuals who are great guideposts. I feel good, and proud, of the work on the page. I put a lot of truth into fiction, and I’ve addressed issues which I’ve remained quiet about because I never felt it was my place to speak on behalf of things which were not in my wheelhouse. I was not indifferent, I simply felt the need to take a small step back and observe. I don’t jump on bandwagons. I educate myself fully before I mention anything, and if I have questions, I would much prefer to do the research or talk to someone who is more knowledgeable on a matter than I am. I don’t ever want to come from a place of ignorance or say something hurtful to someone. It’s not who I am as a person, and it isn’t the kind of writer I am, either.

In a lot of ways, this year did not go as planned, and there’s still five months to go. I have been stalled, like many other people, regarding major business decisions and steps I intended to take long before Covid hit. However, other things have shown me how far I’ve come from 2021 to 2022. My priorities, relationships, and business acumen have all shifted greatly. I allow myself to set larger goals, even when they make me a little nervous.

I received an e-mail last week to let me know I’d been nominated for an award, and I am humbled by this. My presence on Instagram has exploded. I dialed it back on Twitter. I update less often, so I know the award is based on different aspects of my content. I try to create things that matter, inspire, and bring people together. I try to inspire the way I’d like to be inspired. Inevitably, I’ll make mistakes. No one is perfect, but I am highly aware of my faults.

During a conversation last week, I was informed how good I am at being hard on myself. This was during a video chat and I responded by saying, “I can’t believe you just said that to me!”, because it came out of left field. The response I got was, “Oh shit, did I say that out loud?” The person I was talking to actually ducked in the middle of that exchange, as if he thought I was going to throw something at him. That moment of humanizing me and letting me know that yes, I’m a perfectionist and it’s both a blessing and a curse, but it does make me more self-aware, was actually helpful, even though we were both laughing, which sort of defeated the purpose of the point he was trying to make. It was deeply acknowledging, though, and I do appreciate a person who has truly taken the time to get to know me, being able to have lighthearted moments with me, and no, I wouldn’t have thrown anything at him. The playfulness of the exchange really makes me laugh even now. It’s so similar to a sibling dynamic, but this is someone I have great respect for, and I have seen from day one, how much he respects me and my insight. Knowing what a positive, healthy relationship it is gives me that push to be fiercer each day.

When a person acknowledges how prolific I am in my writing, and how I will always have great ideas and opportunities… It’s so complimentary and supportive. It’s even more supportive when the same person says, “You have grown so much since the day I met you. You are worlds away from who I was first introduced to, and you have every right to be proud of that because you show up and you do the work.” That’s special. I don’t see myself the way others do, so I’ve received a lot of feedback of late that was so loving and supportive, and maybe it was a small confidence boost professionally, but more so on a personal level.

Like anyone else who is going through a lot, but who is also taking time out of a day to write for 12+ hours, I feel closer to a few of my larger goals.

Here’s to better days, brighter tomorrows, and all the inspiration a person can hold in their head and heart. Have a good weekend, my people. 😊

copyright © 2022 by Lisa Marino-Molchanova & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Poison In Lethal Doses®™ is a registered trademark.

Editing & Earl Grey

creating

Good writers know when their story is finished. We don’t question it; we just instinctively know “This is where to stop.” and often times, we’re satisfied with that. What do you do when your story is still being told and you’re magnetically pulled to keep on writing?

I’m ass deep in alligators on this rewrite. Like an onion, this story has so many deeper layers I have yet to unravel. Today, interesting things were developed. I then saved the file and decided to do a read-through. I cut, I added, I cut some more, and then additional development began. All I could do was type, because in that moment I thought “These poor characters. They’re so desperately trying to know who they are, what their role is in each other’s lives, how to stay focused, how to move forward.”, etc. It was kind of heartbreaking for me.

Initially when these characters popped into my head, I thought this would be an easy write and a very easy read; the kind that is easy to relate to. But then I realized I’d fallen into a trap of creating a character that made a choice out of avoidance. She spent the majority of the story avoiding huge issues when she didn’t need to do any of it.

At the time, a key line from her was “I stopped thinking up ways to tell him.” She was so committed to moving forward and being a strong woman, that she made a grave mistake, and would later realize how painful that mistake would be for her. She spent a lot of time arguing with a doctor, as well, one who was trying to help her, but was bound by patient confidentiality.

I allowed that to play out until the novel reached a crucial point. I loved what I’d written, but I also thought “What if I went in a different direction?” And so, I started from scratch with just a few key chapters to work with.

This current rewrite is the new direction. I don’t know if it’s better or worse, I just know that the storytelling is fair. It’s over 520 pages, and it continues to grow. I know I need to focus less on the page and word count, and focus more on the actual story, but as a writer of substance, I am trying to keep all of it in mind because I’ve already edited out about 200 pages, if not more. And here’s a simple fact; this story will eventually be whittled down to the bare minimum. That’s a given in the story-telling process. You want a clean manuscript, but you also want all of the key points in the final product.

So I sit here with a steaming cup of Earl Grey, with real sugar and cream, and I ponder my direction.

In many ways, this story is parallel to something I am currently going through. It’s a “Do I or don’t I?” story. Do I take this chance? Do I take this risk? What if? There are only three things lacking for me in my decision-making process, because after all, fiction is fiction and it gives you the opportunity to play. Believe me, I wish I had the problems these characters have. I have some of them, just not all of them.

I’ve decided to prepare this manuscript for a few contests coming up. I want to challenge myself and allow it to be read by people who can’t offend me. I’m my own worst critic; so the worst a stranger can say is nowhere near as harsh as I am with myself. It’s simple; you’ll either like it or you won’t. Hell, someone might even love it.

I didn’t really consider the ramifications of taking on a genre that is so well-established and timeless. I just wanted to write something out of my system so I’d stop having dreams about it every night. The dreams have stopped, but the story has not.

I will know when the story is done. I will. For now, I just have to keep writing. I’m either really angry or trying to get shit done when I break out the red mug. The grey mug is so much more soothing, but tonight, it’s red.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.