All The Best Stories To Tell

All The Best Stories To Tell

Do you ever read someone’s blog posts about things that happened to them in the past and just think, Your life is so much more interesting than mine?

Because I do. All the freaking time.

Like Kristen Lamb. She’s got stories to tell on all sorts of topics, like when she lost her job because of a misdiagnosis and befriended gangsters which resulted in them parking her car rather than stealing it. I read that and I think, “You’ve had such an interesting life.”

Bob Mayer writes things based on his experience in the special forces. I once read an autobiographical book by someone whose sister went crazy, written entirely in poems, and though I’m not trying to say that having your sister go crazy is a good thing, it certainly counts in ‘interesting life’ points.

There’s a line from a Frank Turner song that says “And we’re definitely going to hell, but we’ll have all the best stories to tell.” I don’t particularly want to go to hell. I’m not sure anybody does. But at the same time, I want to have stories to tell. I want to live so that when I’m hanging out with people, I have anecdotes to use.

Oh, I’m funny (apparently — it’s usually unintentional), and I’ll tell stories, but they’re not my stories. They’re stories passed on to me by my sister: her stories, her friends’ stories. Or my brother. They’re stories passed down as family folklore, stories I’ve picked up on the internet, stories people tell me. And I never claim they’re mine. I say, “Someone I know…” or “a friend…” My gift is to make them interesting even when they’re not mine.

But recently it’s occurred to me that that isn’t enough. I want stories. I want my own anecdotes and experiences. I want to bring humour from my own life, not other people’s. I want to use my own background in my novels.

I do a lot of things, in life, generally. Yet they’re routine things. My days are busy, but I’m not gathering stories. I’m in orchestras and bands — they happen every week, and occasionally we have a funny story, usually as a result of our annual tour. I take ballet classes. I do archery. I have music lessons. And these things happen and they use time but they don’t give me any stories. They give me background information, detailed experience, but no stories that I can sit down in ten years’ time and say, “Don’t you remember when…”

What? When the string on my violin came off in a concert? That’s hardly a life-changing experience.

Unfortunately, I know that I’m not the kind of person to have adventures. I’m stuck in a permanent state of being Bilbo before his journey. I’m a coward, I would rather stay at home than go away even on holiday, and I like knowing that I’ve got my books, my bed, and the ability to make the kind of food I like. I like to be safe. I don’t have adventures.

I read books about other people having adventures and I enjoy it. And I get to the end and I think, Rather you than me.

Because however magical the worlds, these days most authors are staying away from the perfect experiences of the hero and they’re highlighting the realism. The cold and the hunger and the lack of sleep and the injuries and the general discomfort. Me? I think, “Yeah, maybe not.”

And I know that in the seventeen and a quarter years that I’ve lived so far, I’ve had more experiences that some of my friends. There was that time I spent a week living on a sailing boat in Norfolk, or the week I spent working with one of the army bands. I’ve tried activities like horse riding and rock climbing and kayaking and all of these things that should give me so many stories.

Yet sometimes I still think, “I need to go on a road trip.” You know. People always go on a road trip to ‘find themselves’. Sometimes it’s a literal road trip: you get in a car and drive. Or hitchhike. Sometimes it’s transplanted into a fantastical setting, like the journey in The Crossing Of Ingo by Helen Dunmore. Sometimes it’s metaphorical. But they always come back with new stories, new experiences, new emotions, and despite hating travelling, I still think, “I want that.”

I’m young. I know that. I’ve got so much time to accumulate stories. But I want the assurance that they will happen at some point, and no one is able to give that to me.

I don’t know what I’m expecting to do by writing this. I think I’m hoping that one of you will say, “I know exactly how you feel. I used to be the same, and then I did [insert wondrous thing here] and I don’t feel it anymore.” Or perhaps I’m hoping that one of you (preferably someone I’ve met in real life and can ascertain is not an axe-murderer) will invite me on a roadtrip. On an adventure to reclaim gold from a dragon, or a key on behalf of an angel who turns out to be evil but it’s okay because we can sort them out because we are Heroes and we are plucky and bold, or a journey to find a prince who went missing, or to search out fragments of soul so that we can defeat the guy destroying everything. On a quest.

Yes. That’s what I need.

I need a quest.

Anyone got one handy?

15 thoughts on “All The Best Stories To Tell

  1. You know what? I guess I can make you happy. I did use to feel like that. I thought my life was so boring. But then I read a series of books known as the A Life of Faith: Millie Keith series, and I noticed something.

    This girl was pretty normal. But she had adventures. Whaaaaaa? How did that work? She was pretty much just like me–oldest of a lot of kids. But lots of funny things happened to her family.

    And then I realized something.

    The reason I thought I didn’t have anything interesting going on was because to me, it WAS normal. I was used to it, so I couldn’t see how it was interesting or exciting. Whereas, so many other people would tell me “Wow, you have an exciting life” just when I told them about this “normal stuff” I did. Then I started to recognize what was different about me–I have a lot of younger siblings. Then I suddenly knew what was “interesting” to other people. I started to notice all the adventures I really have.

    Sooooo…summary? You may not think anything interesting ever happens, but everyone’s life is different somehow. Sometimes it takes another person to look at it and point it out to you. But there’s got to be something there that’s unique and, therefore, interesting to others.

    And there’s your post in response to the post.

  2. I used to be the same myself. I’m not one for going out much, preferring to stay in most evenings. I very rarely set foot outside of London. But I’ve had adventures…

    It was a question of putting myself out there. Taking part in NaNoWriMo certainly helped with that, and I got to meet lots of awesome people through it (like your good self!).

    Probably the biggest thing I put myself forward for was becoming a London 2012 Gamesmaker, where I was based at the Olympic Stadium during the Paralympics. It was very nerve-wracking when I was there for my first shift, and I very much felt like a fish out of water, but there were lots of lovely people there to ease me into my role, and overall I had a good and memorable time there. It also led to me being able to go to the backstage show of BBC Sports Personality of the Year, which was also a great adventure.

    I’m sure you’ll have plenty of your own stories to tell eventually. It may not seem like it now, but you will – soon you’ll be away at Uni, where there are many adventures to be had…

    I can’t offer to take you on a literal road trip, mainly because I can’t drive, but, if you’re up for it, I’d be up for going on an adventure in London. Whilst there may not be any great evil to fight, or any glory to be won, I’m sure a fun adventure could still be had…

    And, if you want to go further afield, I’d also like to go to Brighton one day. It’s been many years since I’ve been there. I wish to go on a quest to devour the beast of the sea. (Translation: I’d like to eat fish and chips on the beach.)

    I’d be happy to have you as a companion for such an adventure. Let me know if you’re up for it…

  3. I saw something in the classifieds the other day. Can’t remember what it was, but it might be interesting.

    When I don’t have stories, I make them up. It’s more fun than actually racing a dung beetle across the parking lot.

  4. Well, a wee message from me, who has a lot of stories and often forgets a few in the process: it’s quality, not quantity. Having a few special adventures that you remember fondly and look back on with joy, and never get tired of telling, is much better than having a million and one other stories that are just sort of vague grey mists in your head. Especially when many of these other stories come at the expense of home and stability.

    That said, I think we all need an adventure sometimes. Luckily, as you said, you are young, and I reckon the best period for adventuring is yet ahead of you (there’s a reason gap years take place when you’re 18). One needs some youth and bounce, I think, for their first adventure, but you also need the age and experience to deal with things when they may go wrong – or simply to be legally old enough to do all the fun stuff.

    Also, adventures don’t always have to be madly off-the-wall. There are a thousand other adventures that are much closer to home, and will not involve incredible discomfort that can, contrary to being “character building”, just make you miserable.

    Of course, sometimes a little big of “EUGH!” is neccessary. Makes it all the nicer when you get home to boil a kettle in your hobbit hole in the end of the day.

    Finally . . . got an application form or anything I need to sign for an Adventuring Companion? Non-expendable, that is. ;)

    1. I think you filled out the hypothetical Adventuring Companion form a LONG time ago. Maybe when we first started writing stupid stories together on Protag. (Didn’t we say something about going on a crazy adventure in Summer 2014? I swear Russia was mentioned at one point… and we were going to take Cathryn, too. I’m game if you are.)

  5. Sounds like you are looking for something you have right in front of you. Look at all the activities you take part in. Life is an adventure, not often crazy and that’s a good thing.

  6. (Before I write this long comment, I wanted to say that I am LOVING St. Mallory’s Forever so far)! :D

    Everyone wants a good story to tell, but what makes me sad is when people are SO desperate for stories to tell that they do something horrible. Apparently James Earl Ray wanted to kill Martin Luther King Jr. so he could be on the FBI’s most wanted list. Yes, that was his life-long dream. Pretty sad.

    A quest . . . hmm . . . you could always try and create the best sandwich recipe the world has ever seen. ;) Sorry, I’ll come back to that one. I can’t think of anything good right now.

    I was wondering if I could interview you on my blog! :D I’m taking “The Story Cartel” course (that Joe Bunting from set up) and one of the things it said to do was interview a writer, and you were the first person that came to mind! Let me know if you’re interested and I can set something up.

    1. I’d love to be interviewed! I like interviews :) They’re fun. Glad to hear you’re liking St Mall’s, too.

      Don’t worry, in my quest for stories I am not planning to assassinate anyone (unless they are fictional). Or do anything else illegal, if it can be avoided.

      1. Great! :D Could you please e-mail me at themagicviolinist(at)gmail(dot)com? That way I’ll have your e-mail so I can ask you the questions. I’m so excited!

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