Posted by: Corri van de Stege | March 18, 2007

Writing Stories

The purpose of this blog is to focus me on writing stories – stories that I want to tell my granddaughter / possible future grandchildren.  I have been diverted though as there are so many other things that come up as you sit behind your computer – every day things, books you read, the work you do (all absorbing management skills required), newspapers, things that happen to other people, your family, travelling up and down the country for your work, doing your shopping, and then yesterday: even buying a new car as your old one is just about to give up the ghost and you daren’t trust your life to it any longer (apart from the mounting garage bills which are another reason to give up on it, your old mate of seven years). 

So here is another story for posterity: what it’s like to live in 2007, holding down a senior management position to do with cutting edge policy developments, thinking about presentations you have to do, people you have to manage as well as negotiating positions between different agencies and organisations and of course delivering on what the operating plan tells you to!  At the same time, you think about your life and how you got to be where you are, the strange quirks of life, moving from one country to another, restarting your life a number of times, revolutions (yes I also lived through the Iranian Revolution, living in Isfahan and sometimes in Tehran), friends across the globe whom you have lost contact with, families, bringing up children in three different countries and holding down jobs in three different countries, all quite weird (it does sometimes make you feel as if you’re lost in this world, not belonging anywhere really) and I am thinking about how I can use words and sentences to fashion stories of this.  Love, marriages and divorces, pain and exhileration, despair and achievements  – and then making up new stories that contain some of all of that, ignoring my own history, yet trying to make sense of it all as I promised I would try and do. 

Yesterday’s Guardian Review discussed Susan Sontag ‘Long live the novelist’s task’ which provided some sharp clues and comments – not that I even want to begin to compare myself with  Susan Sontag, but she may yet have a message that I can use and treasure.    ‘The essential scheme of storytelling is linear (even when it is antichronological).  It proceeds from a “before” (or: “at first”) to a “during” to a “finally” or “after”.  And whereas the role of metaphor in poetry is a necessary one, with great poets refining and elaborating the great historical store of metaphors, many but definitely not all novelists also have recourse to metaphor.  That is because the understanding of the novelist is temporal – time is experienced ‘as an arena of struggle or conflic or choice.  Susan Sontag’s view is that all stories are about battles, struggles of one kind or another, that terminate in victory and in defeat. (Saturday Guardian, 17 March 2007: Pay attention to the World)  This essay is from her book At the Same Time .  There is also an interesting review  by John Mullan on ‘The Light of Day’ by Graham Swift – another book to get hold of I think, and learn from.   This describes the form of novel writing that uses one day to provide a story with a ‘unity of time’, concentrating drama into one day.  (See also Ian McEwan’s Saturday) which I can recommend if you haven’t read it yet). 

And now back to my own attempts and what I have done so far: loose stories, some of them linking back to the past and then coming to the day again.  It does feel comfortable, writing stories in that format, always keeing in mind that there needs to be some kind of outcome, there needs to be a point, I suppose.


  1. Superb, you are elligible because of your experience to impart your knowledge around.

    Keep it up.

  2. I like the astute comments on the roles of the novelist and the balncing link between the world and one’s own expereinces. These are all very difficult to disentangle and then integrate into a plot. I also agree with packing the plot into one day – it makes for a fast sense of tempo to before, during and after.

  3. I have a story… in may i have to board the APL Pearl for 4 days and sail the North Sea on a container vessel. The name reminds me awfully of the name of the ship in the movie, Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl 🙂

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