If you have an author presence on Goodreads, every once in a while they post a question. The idea is that various authors will post on the question and readers can go from post to post and see how different authors answered the same question. The most recent one was “what mystery in your own life could be a plot for a book?”
It probably isn’t appropriate that I laughed out loud when I read this.
First of all, I come from a family of story tellers. I grew up on tall Texas tales. The majority probably include a nugget of truth. But I did notice something about these stories. They fit into one of two categories – the unchanging story and the ever-changing story.
As the name suggests, the ever-changing story is vastly different each and every time you hear it. Why have you never met so-and-so? He died before you were born. A year later, the same person offers to tell you why you’ve never met so-and-so, and this time you get a completely different story.
To me, these stories are mysteries. Why do people tell them? I’m never entirely certain since they change so much from one telling to the next. My guess has always been that they are told to obscure the truth. In this case, maybe he probably married a yankee, grew out his hair and moved to a commune. That would definitely lead to a cover up.
But let’s not forget the unchanging story. It isn’t always completely unchanging. The teller may recall a detail that they forgot to add earlier. Someone else may remember that so-and-so was there too. They weren’t driving the Nash Rambler. It was the Studebaker. Or maybe it was the Renault. That was a sweet little car.
I gravitate to the unchanging stories. In part, it is because I suspect they are like folk tales. They contain a nugget of truth, something that we need to know. It might be that country folk are ingenious or that people will come together to help. These are the vital truths that are at the center of many of the very best stories.