From time to time, I invite some of my local writer friends to talk about their characters, their projects and various and sundry other writerly business. Today’s post is from Marian Allen, author of the wonderful SAGE epic fantasy trilogy. Part one, The Fall of Onagros, is available for FREE today and tomorrow (July 16-17) so you should most definitely pick it up. I just recently finished reading the whole trilogy and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
You can find her every day at www.marianallen.com.
The Storyteller as Activist
Farukh found a clear space to stand, swept his arms above his head, and raised a loud ululating cry that pierced the air of the marketplace. By the time he lowered his voice, he was surrounded by a jostling crowd. Most of his listeners were adults, for the stories of the marketplace were not the stories of the nursery. There were some youngsters on the outskirts of the quieting group. They would listen, and think about what they heard, and pester their elders with awkward questions.
Farukh’s listeners fell into his stories as if they fell into a well; for a time, the universe was limited and firmly constructed and out of their control.
This is the first appearance of Farukh, the Storyteller in my fantasy trilogy, SAGE. The first story he tells is one the country’s false ruler would rather not be known. Farukh changes the names, but the reader knows – and the listeners suspect – the truth: that the usurper has denied the throne’s true claimant and has tried to have him killed, driving him into exile.
The next time we see Farukh, he’s offering his services to that true claimant:
“I can do what I do,” said Farukh, spreading his hands, palms up, fingers curled, as if they held wonders. “I can tell stories. Stories with hidden meanings that will creep into the people’s minds and spirits. Stories whose meanings become more clear with time and thought and plainer speaking. Stories that grow from tales to legends to myths to truths to precedents and justifications.” His fists thumped against the table, real and incontestable.
And it happens very much like that through the course of SAGE. People hear Farukh’s stories and interpret them to suit themselves, but always subversively. Gradually, the people stop accepting things as they are and come to believe that the downfall of the false ruler and return of the true one are inevitable – foretold – ordained.
Is such a thing possible? Given the world and situation I set up, I think it’s believable – believable enough for fantasy, anyway.
Is it possible in the real world?
What are organized religions, but collections of people who believe the same set of stories so strongly they’re willing to die – and kill – for them? What is history, but the stories the survivors tell about what happened? What are television scripts, comic books, commercials, but stories about who we are, what we want, and how we think – or how someone wants us to think?
Politicians call it “spin”: the story is less important than the way you tell it. Lawyers know it, too. Watch a good courtroom drama and see how the defense and the prosecution frame the facts for or against the accused. It’s an education in itself.
The world was a very different place when I was growing up. It’s changed many times over in the ~mumblety mumblety~ years I’ve been alive, and the stories we were told and told each other played great parts in those changes.
As a writer, my job is to take a set of happenings and decide how to frame them, elaborate them, spin them, tell them. I’m aware of the potential power of my words, and take that power very seriously.
As a reader, my job is to be carried along in the spin of an author’s story, believing it and being changed for the better by it.
As a human being, my job is approach everything I’m assured is true with eyes as clear as I can manage, to try to see past the ornamentation to the barest bones, to separate the story from the facts.
Because storytellers can change reality.
If you don’t believe me, ask the guys who wrote the gospels.