January 23rd, 2008

People and Their Stories

You don’t have to be the editor of a publication to know that most people believe their stories are the most fascinating, not to mention the most important, in Storydom. You also don’t need to be an editor of a publication to know that most people believe they have THE answers to the various quandaries of the world: how to resolve health problems, how to stabilize relationships, how to make a perfect flan. (This is, of course, opposed to those of us who really DO have the answers to all these quandaries. And more besides.)


But the people at my new gig crack me up with their single-minded, univisionistic way of presenting me with the stories I should—nay, must, lest I imperil my very soul—cover.


Recently I got a not-excessively-polite voicemail from someone who was irked that he’d left me several messages, and I hadn’t yet called him back. (That was because I hadn’t heard the messages. Not because I was avoiding him. Although I certainly will from now on.)


After an extended bout of phone tag, the guy called me back so we could discuss what was on his mind.


That pressing issue? Well, it seems that I had covered a story he believed was very, very important—but not to the length he believed it merited. That was what all the fuss was about. (And fuss there was—he also emailed two of my superiors so that they would know I had not been prompt in returning his calls.)


Then there was another voicemail, in which a person told me very firmly—and at such great length that, actually, one voicemail stretched into two—that it was absolutely vital for me to cover a particular event. Well, I don’t know about vital—but it is interesting, so I’ve been making some calls, trying to get comments from participants in the event. Only it turns out that the organizers were a little bit behind, so that some of the participants didn’t even know when they were participating—and one didn’t realize until after his allotted time that he had been supposed to participate. He missed the whole thing.


On the plus side, as I am now waist-deep in revisions on my MG (unless it’s YA) fantasy novel, this gives me a great prism through which to view my main character: in no way does she believe that her story should be given prominence—perhaps because the people around her are so adamant that their stories are the main attraction. As I continue refining her voice and strengthening her tale, I’m going to try looking at her predicament as one in which she has to move to the front of the stage and spill. And since she and I are the ones driving this bus, I can pretty much guarantee that we’ll come to an agreement about how much coverage her story merits, and how much it’s going to get.  

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