Left-brained or Right-brained?

Posted On March 1, 2010

   Ghost writing. Interesting concept. Someone else’s story, their images, ideas, thoughts, melded with one who has only dealt with the pictures in their own mind. Perspective to the nth degree, I’m thinking. And, I may have the opportunity to dive into such an ocean of another’s experience. While at dinner by myself on Friday night, the waiter said, “I have an interesting story. I was stabbed in the heart and was in a coma for three months.” Okay. I’m hooked, at least for what occurred before and the events that followed.

   On the drive home I thought about what I would do should this person actually contact me about getting his story in print. Would it be fiction, or non-fiction? What lesson has he learned, if any? Were there signs that this was a possible consequence from prior events? Has he changed how he lives his life? Does he have aspirations of participating in the Speaker Circuits? I thought about the process that I partake in when I sit down to write (and as convoluted and varied as it is, it’s changing) compared to how others go about their craft, especially if they’re just wanting to try it out, see how it fits.

   The first decision is whether it will be told as an autobiography, or a novel. From there, the roads could be similar, or vastly different. If it is non-fiction, then the point of view is typically first person, meaning using ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘mine’, which limits what the reader can know about the other characters in the story. From there, one would need to consider where to start the story, what details to include that are relevant, or just interesting. The setting would need to be thoroughly described, and I think this would stretch any writer’s talents. To ‘see’ a rain-soaked street with the reflections of neon bar signs in one’s own mind is easy. However, to pick the details from another’s experience might be challenging. Because I write from a right-brained ‘flow’ versus a left-brained ‘task analysis’, I think either way, fiction or non-fiction, ‘flow’ or ‘outline’ would be an interesting endeavor. In my opinion, challenge encourages us to push the envelope a bit, see what we can do with something, and discover a little more about ourselves and our capacity.

   Choice #1: Right-brained. If you tend to create by sitting quietly, closing your eyes, dipping below the constant chatter of the mind and waiting for the image or dialogue or action to appear, then I might suggest talking, in great detail, with the person who has the story to share. Using either/or questioning to hone in on what exactly the street looked like, what emotions/thoughts were darting through the mind of the person at that moment in time. As the writer sits, with the information from the storyteller, they recreate the scene, the conversation between characters, the details of the setting. I believe that reading the story back to the storyteller orally, or silently, would offer a different effect. Would the storyteller consider it ‘weird’ to have their story told in someone else’s words? These steps would dance back and forth several times as the storyteller enhances the experience and the writer elaborates in words. It’s all about the ‘picture’ transference from storyteller to writer to hard copy. Maybe it remains a short story, or perhaps there is enough fodder for a book-length narrative. Somewhere along this timeline would be the question, “Do you want this in print at Borders, or to pass out at the next family reunion, or sent to a host of magazines?” And from there, the road winds ever further up and around and through . . .

   Choice #2: Left-brained. Though this is not the way I create anything (unless I had to, for some really bizarre reason, do a (gulp) research paper), I would be willing to employ a few of these techniques just to keep the train on the track, so to speak. First, hear the story. Question the details, the events prior and post. A short story? Then lay it out the way it was told. For a full-length book, there needs to be chapters, so break out that package of index cards. From here, I may go so far as to color code event, character, setting and organize them on a cork board or on sticky notes and paste them on a mirrored closet door. Decisions would need to be made about where in time to begin the story, but with ‘moveable’ chapters, several ideas can be tried.

   Choice #3: A blending of the two options, a more ‘whole-brain’ approach. I picture a yellow legal pad, one page filled with an outline form of beginning, middle, end, and on the following page a graphic organizer with a mixture of words and pictures. Regardless of the method, or combination of methods, several tellings and rewriting/refining would need to occur. And, I’m guessing, this might be a challenge for a writer on many levels, but perhaps mostly because it doesn’t arise from within their own being, a reflection of their own life, an attempt at their own understanding. That drastic change in perspective or procedure could lead them to give up in frustration, or lift them to new heights for their own creativity.

   As always, I invite you to check it out for yourself. Which side of the brain to do engage in when creating? If you’re used to one side, see if you can peek over the fence at the other side. Who knows what you might discover. At the present time, I’m looking over my own fences. The updating of my web site, www.myjoyenterprises.com, is prodding me to expand how I do what I do, as well as what I offer, whispering that it is time to put the talk into action. I still owe the readers who visit my site the short story on my shopping expedition in November, and those who have read novel #3, Of Stars and Secrets, the sequel, Of Prophesies and Promises. It’s coming, soon!!

Written by Michele Venne

Writer of immersive and intriguing stories.

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