by Julie Pasqual
When asked if I tell personal stories, my standard reply is: “NO! My life is REALLY not interesting enough for that!!” I usually accompany that with knocking on wood, for I find that stories, like movies based on real life, tend to lean towards the tragic, and, frankly, I want none of that.
Of course, I am joking a bit, as I do have some interesting misadventures, and the story of how I met my husband is a quite cute, and I do talk about my beloved Nanny – my grandmother on my mother’s side, as a preface to one story. But, generally, my thinking is – how could my life compare to the wonders found in folktales??? I mean, my getting a stranger to help me start my car in a not so great neighborhood in Newark, NJ, is not going to stack up besides the tale of a prince being born out of a rose, and then ending a war that had been fought so long no one even remembered what it was about!! So, no I say with conviction, I do NOT tell personal tales.
So, imagine my surprise when, having been asked to speak to a group of high school students about what makes a story good to tell, the first thing that I thought of was – it’s got to be personal. Yes, soon after came the standard things one looks for in a tale – beginning, middle, and end, a nice balance of description and dialogue, and, for a new teller, not TOO long, or SO many characters. But, in my heart, I kept coming back to the personal connection to EVERY story – long, short, or in between, I have with the stories in my repertoire.
For me, picking which tale to work on is sort of like falling in love. Yes, there is the check list – narrative, length, appropriate for the audience and occasion I am catering to, but then, just like the way I found it so beguiling the way my husband walks down a hallway – there is something else. The spark, the hook, the thing that the story articulates that even if it is in no way even remotely associated with my life in this century – is the thing that feels the most “me”.
A lot of the times, it’s the mystery, it’s the thing that is not at all logical, practical, or every day, that most draws me to it – for, I have to admit, I LOVE the unknown, I ADORE that there are things I cannot understand or comprehend, and never, ever will. To quote an older woman I met once, “There are some things that aren’t ours to know!” LOVE THAT!!!!!
And, other times, it’s the underlying message in the tale that gets me – the principles I wish I could really LIVE, and not just admire, and hope for. Then there’s the MAGIC – big M magic – when things come to life or transform, wishes are granted, and our loved ones come back to us in some way. The world of elves, fairies, and wizards is a place I feel VERY at home at, and can be more real to me than a ride on the subway.
So, I guess what I have discovered is: do I tell tales about things that actually happened to me? No, I do not (and again, I will knock on that good wood). But, do I tell personal stories?? I would have to say, I do.