Only You Can Tell Your Story
by Bill Noel
A survey taken a few years ago revealed that 83% of Americans want to write a book. I was among the 17% who had never expressed interesting in writing a book. For reasons that probably would take years of psychoanalysis to figure out, I changed my mind at the ripe old age of fifty-nine and decided to try my hand at writing a novel. Slightly more than a decade later, I’ve been fortunate enough to have penned a dozen published novels and because of that am often asked for advice/encouragement/help by aspiring writers who want to enter the glamour-packed world of being a novelist. (The glamour-packed part was humor.) Regardless, many of the aspiring novelists share that they don’t know where and how to begin. They often tell me that it appears that the plots they’re considering have already been taken and there’s nothing new to write.
The truth is, they’re correct. There is no such thing as a new plot. Every twist, every turn, every beginning, middle, and end has found its way in one or more of the zillion books put to paper since Gutenberg revolutionized the printing process some 500 years before most of us were born. Wow, how discouraging is that?
But, hang on and hang in there, here’s where it gets interesting. In addition to being a writer, I’m a photographer. I once participated in a photo workshop with six other professional photographers in the Great Smokey Mountains. We were taken to an old mill by a mountain stream and were herded into a ten-by-twenty-foot space. Our instructions were simple. Take photos, as many as we desired. At the end of the day, we compared literally hundreds of images from the day’s shoot. We had used high-end cameras; we had the technical knowledge to produce quality images; we had been standing on the same two-hundred square foot plot of land; and, the scene we were shooting was the same for each of us. Yet no two photos were identical. No two photographers saw the scene the same way.
My point, drumroll please: Only you can see a scene through your own eyes. Only you can tell your story. No two writers or photographers bring the same background, experience, biases, perspective, and everything else that makes you unique to the viewfinder of the camera, to the keyboard, to the pen and paper.
My mother-in-law is ninety-two years old. She’s legally blind and has major health problems. So, what did she do? You guessed it, she decided to write a book. She had wanted to write her family history for years but with her failing health and lack of eyesight, she’d only thought about it. She finally figured she’d better get on with it while she could. She realized what I tell many aspiring writers. Only she could tell her story. And she did. Will her book ever make it to the New York Times Bestseller list? No. Will it have a readership outside her extended family? Doubtful. What her book did was provide priceless insights into this fantastic woman’s life. It’s an inspiration to the entire family and a story that could only be told by her. Only she—I repeat, only she—could tell her story.
You don’t have to write a novel or a book on how to lose eeight by eating more ice cream. You may be too old or too young to join the army; too old or too young to pilot a Boeing 787. What you’re not too old or too young to do is write. Write your remembrances of growing up or your family history. Write the great American novel. Write a poem, a song, an opera, a whatever. Those who follow you on this planet will forever be grateful that you did. Regardless, just write something. If a ninety-two-year-old, blind woman can do it, what possible excuse could you have for not making the effort?
If you’re writing a novel, will the plot be similar to others? Of course. What will make it unique is you—your words, your heart, your head, and your passion. Only you can tell your story.
Simply stated, take the advice of that great American philosopher, Nike. JUST DO IT!
Bill Noel’s career as a novelist began in 2007 with the publication of FOLLY, the first book in the Folly Beach Mystery series. Fans of the popular series have been treated to a new book each year since then. The books are fast-paced mysteries mixing humor and intrigue and have been described as “perfect beach reads.” The twelfth book in the series, DEAD CENTER, was published in November 2016.
Mr. Noel spends his time between writing fiction and photography. He has sold his photographs at local and regional juried art shows as well as galleries in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Kentucky. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife, Susan, and his off-kilter imagination.
Chris Landrum s world is turned upside down when he stumbles on a body of a killer for hire. Chris s friends on the laid-back, peaceful South Carolina island are convinced they know who the hit man was sent to kill, and ask the retired bureaucrat to stick his nose in business that should be left to the police. If that s not enough, Chris comes home to an intruder intent on taking his life; his best friend announces he s moving out of state; and, his long-term girlfriend may be leaving him. Add to the mix, a participant in the witness protection program and a bookstore owner with a mysterious past, and once again, Chris is in the crosshairs of a murderer.