Sometimes I wonder if the stories you tell begin to tug at your life, begin to change it in some mysterious way. Not just that you learn from stories, though that can happen, too. But even deeper: Could it be that, by choosing certain stories, you draw to yourself the happenings inside them? So that your life begins to echo your stories?”
This quote comes from excellent book I finished last week called Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher. It’s a nice riff on the story of Sharhazad and the 1001 Nights, though she isn’t the main character. The main character is Marjan, a crippled girl with a gift for telling stories. Sharhazad is her inspiration. Sharhazad is running out of stories, but the 1001 nights are not yet up, and she desperately needs to keep the Sultan going. Not only so she will live come sunrise, but so the other women in the harem may have a fighting chance as well. The stories she is telling the Sultan are also transforming him in the process. Marjan shows up at the harem at just the right time to give Sharhazad a story, a story that not only saves one life, but many. The book gives many important lessons in storytelling.
Knowing that the stories you tell yourself and others and the stories you hear, read, see have an effect on reality is tremendously empowering. A vast ecology of media and information surrounds us in the data cloud. What stories do you believe? Which ones do you tell? Does your BS detector go off when you encounter one that has had a bucket of PR spin dumped onto it? Knowing the power of stories puts a tremendous responsibility on all who weave the world with their words. And that is all of us, whether we know and practice it consciously or not.
As I write my fictions, it is hard not to be aware of the larger processes at work, things going on at subsurface level. It may appear that I’m stringing sentences together, but the characters, settings, and scenarios actually start taking on a life of their own. Mathametician and Science Fiction writer Rudy Rucker knows about this, and he even has a term for it, “Blow Back”. I first came across the idea in his book Postsingular, where one of the main characters, Thuy, experiences the phenomenon of “Blowback” with a character from her metanovel. Yeah, metanovel. “Thuy’s metanovel is like a frenzied waking dream of activity. It’s a transformation of her daily reality into high art, it’s written in the style of Beat poetry with images and sounds. Accesing it is like having Thuy’s stream of consciousness; it’s like briefly becoming her.” (2) Blowback occurs when a character from her metanovel pops into her real life to giver her some timely information. The phenomenon is also broached in a short story called Visions of the Metanovel collected in Mad Professor.
How does Blowback occur to the engaged writer and storyteller? Through dreams and synchronicity, images come alive in this world.
What kind of world do you want to live in? What kind of life do you want to have? Craft the tales you tell as if they will be drawn into your life. Art is the mirror reflecting both ways.
“I’m not in the novel. I am the novel.” -Philip K. Dick
(1) Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher, Aladdin Paperbacks 1999
(2)http://www.rudyrucker.com/pdf/postsingularnotesposted.pdf See also his books Postsingular from Tor Books 2007, its sequel Hylozoic from Tor Books 2009, and Mad Professor from Thunder’s Mouth Press 2007.