When people ask me where my knack for storytelling comes from, I look askance at my father and giggle. He’s a retired scientist, with a Masters degree in geology, who has logged more than ten thousand hours of fieldwork adventures. Yet, he failed his high school English classes and only reads the daily newspaper. When he was still working, he’d read reports grudgingly and it took painstaking hours. Of all my published novels, he’s only read the titles and, once, the back cover. While I love him, he’s certainly not the inspiration for my writing dreams and designs.
“My mother,” I tell people.
“Was she a writer?” people tend to ask. Having passed away several years ago, not all my current acquaintances know her history. “Does she have any books, stories, or poems published?”
“The only thing she ever wrote was a detailed grocery list, or the rough draft of some science article she penned for my dad.”
At this announcement, people generally frown. “Then how did your talent come from her?”
My eyebrows quirk up.
My mother was a storyteller. She could talk the ears off an elephant and never run short of breath. When my husband and I first started dating, he would spend long hours with my mother, content to listen while she spoke. He was shy and the dynamic suited him well. Besides, he was fascinated by her. He’d make mental notes on how often she re-told a certain story. Later, he’d comment to me that the endings of her stories never stayed the same. I’d assure him that the next time she told a particular tale, it would probably end differently once more.
My husband, very logical, sequential, and orderly in his thinking would be extremely perplexed by this. “How is that possible? She said that this really happened to her. The ending of a story can’t change if the event really happened.”
What my mom was doing every time she repeated a tale, was testing out reactions and practicing the best one. If an exaggerated part garnered laughter, she’d extend it further the next time, seeking more. If a punchline fell flat, she’d eliminate it. It didn’t matter if the details were in the correct order, or if they were correct at all. Her goal wasn’t accuracy, but to elicit a response, whether that be shock or tears, laughter, or empathy.
And… that’s writing.
I take elements of my life and twist them into plotlines. People I meet influence the characters I create. Everything I do, everything I experience, becomes an eventual element of a story I write or an anecdote I share. And yes, they are all based in reality, have an undercurrent of truth, but they are not the exact truth.
That’s the power of it.
That’s the purpose of all writing.
Thanks mom, for setting me on this journey. You’re an influence of everything I am, and the style with which I write. See you down the road, in whichever way we meet again. All my stories are because of you.
Check out Jenna Greene’s most recent release, REBORN, winner of the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award – First Place for YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi, and the first book in Jenna Greene’s acclaimed fantasy series: IMAGINE.