Characters in Our Own Stories

Last night I took a peek at my metrics and noticed that over the past few days, I’ve had a sudden spike of 100-300 more page views per day than I normally average. I took a closer look to figure out what was getting all the traffic, and I saw that all of it came from the same user.

Someone out there is reading my story. I mean really reading it, all 756 posts. She started at the beginning and is working her way up, post by post, through my life.

I didn’t notice how she managed to find her way here. Was one of my posts a search result and she got so sucked in that she had to see how it all started? Which angle of my life is it that keeps prompting her to click Next Post?

Is it the story I’ve told as a mother? As a mother-after-infertility? As a gestational surrogate?

I feel like a character in someone’s good book that she can’t put down. As I am the author, I am flattered that someone is so gripped by my narrative that she’s spent literally hours a day here reading.

I can’t help but wonder, “Does she already know how the story ends?” 

Ensconced within this blog, there is a long, sweeping saga for which the conclusion has been already been written. January 2008 – June 2011 is a story within my story. I follow Dear Reader’s activity in Statcounter and see titles of posts that I’d long-forgotten. I click in here and there to read along with her, and I find myself laughing at the memories. Or worse, crying because of them. I click away and return to the present. Reading words that I wrote when in the twist of such raw emotion shines away the welcome dullness that time and distance sometimes offers. The opaque memory is enough; reading takes me back to a clarity that I don’t need to experience again.

Dear Reader is about to enter January 2010. I know what happens next. I know how the story ends.

And I know how it continues, and how it changes into something different. I know why The Smart One became The Smartness. I know how a superwoman evolved into a gangsta.

As the author, I worry that my story as it exists today is not as important, not as intriguing as it was then. I sometimes feel like the narrative of my life is now meandering on without a distinct plot line, without a conflict clear enough to result in the cycles of rising actions and climaxes that hooks readers and keeps them following along.

And I wonder about my character. What is next for her? When I get right down to it, that is really what the theme of my past two years has been: what is next? 

Unlike Dear Reader, I don’t have the luxury of turning the page to see what happens.

Even if I could, would I?

Would you? 


Dear Reader, please don’t let the fact that I know you’re here deter you from reading. I’m rather glad that you came. I hope you’ll say hello. 

39 thoughts on “Characters in Our Own Stories”

  1. This is awesome! What a testament to your writing…and your choices, that someone cares to know how the story evolves. Every writer should hope to experience this one day!

  2. What a ballsome, self-aware post. I kept thinking of “Stranger Than Fiction” (that delightfully underrated Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson movie) as I read. And I’m reminded of Luna’s post (I think it was Luna) who had a reader who read her whole story and wanted to tell her as she was reading “I know how it ends! It’ll be okay! Hang in there!”

    No matter what the story you invent for yourself, I know it’ll be a page-turner for sure, even if it might not feel like it in the moment.

  3. Awesome! What an interesting post/reflection… The same things happened to me recently, there was big spike in my hits one day and I looked into it and realized that someone also seemed to be reading most of my blog. Hmmm… It does make one wonder about the person doing the reading.

    1. Because our stories are fraught with such highs and lows (especially yours, Kathy), I do wonder about the emotions of our readers and what they’re thinking when they’ve strapped themselves so tightly into the seats of our rollercoasters.

  4. The person who transformed into a gangster is still you; is still a part of you. This part which you say you already know the ending to is speaking to Dear Reader’s soul, taking in every word because maybe her life reflects where you were; it is their now. It may not end the same, but that is the nice thing about getting to write our own story, there can be a course change with the flicker of a pen or the turn to the next blank page. Your story, is still unraveling, not yet finished, turn the page and let us know how does the story continue.

  5. I find myself going back and reading several posts. They help me remember OUR story as a family and at times it does my heart good to back and read the MommyL

  6. so interesting, isn’t it?
    I do wonder what draws certain readers in to our stories, i.e., the topics, the drama, the telling, etc. though I am not surprised someone found you utterly compelling and fascinating, as we all do.

    and yes, keiko, I had that experience and was brought to tears by a reader’s reassuring words as she read through my blog, writing now as if she was speaking to me back then when I was in my darkest days, saying, “hold on, it’s right there.” gave me chills.

    1. “In this blogging community, we have the opportunity to play a character in each other’s life work…”

      What in interesting and profound way to think of the connections that we all make here. It brings to mind the common bonds that we all share despite our varied stories. It helps bring the world in closer and and make us not feel so alone.

  7. This? Would make a great film. One of those with two timezones, we intercut between the past and the present. As Dear Reader reads the past and eventually catches up to the present.

    Dun dun duuuuuuun….!

    1. I agree with JC. Except to add more conflict for your present story, Dear Reader is a serial blog stalker that you have to tickle fight to the death. Too much? Sometimes I go to far.

    2. Your comment reminds me of “The Lake House,” the Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock movie. I just watched that a couple of weeks ago. Love that movie. I think you’re onto something for the premise of a good movie…

  8. I’m guilty of doing that – camping on someone’s blog, for days, reading every last post they ever wrote. I’ve not done it here, yet, but now intrigued to do so. It’s always been for various reasons too. Some I find a kindred soul, others I just enjoy because they’re enjoyable…oh, there are so many reasons to go thru & read more than just a single post, once in a while, or just once ever.

    I try not to go back & read thru my own posts though because when I do I always find myself wishing I hadn’t blogged what I did, after ‘unpublishing’ many I republished them because they’re a part of me – horrible grammar & all.

    1. Stephi, I would read blogs like I would novels more often if I had the time. These days, I’m lucky if I can read one or two posts at a time! I think I’ve read maybe three or four blogs from start to present.

      I’ve only once unpublished something, and the only reason that I did was because it involved telling someone else’s story. They were aware of it when it went up and loved it at the time, but a few years later it was necessary for me to take down.

    1. If I gave in to the desire to sit and blogstalk from start to finish as much as I am drawn to, I’d never get anything done, either. I have a list of about six blogs that I’ve always wanted to do that. Maybe I’ll make an attempt to get through one or two of them during Christmas break…

  9. I have just landed here for the first time, but I know this post compels me to read more. It is kind of strange. We put these words out there and at the time we are happy to have them read, to share our lives. But then time passes and you move on and it feels odd to have people reading what once was because while it doesn’t quite fit anymore, it is still true. Ellen

    1. Welcome! I hope that you stick around and DO dig back in the archives!

      I’m a position that I actually don’t mind if people go back and read my blog as if it were a book. There are some painful times back there, sure…but at the heart of it, it’s still the same me. I also tend to think that I did a lot of my best writing back then, too. In fact, much of the time I feel like the “new” me is trying to get back up to the caliber of the “old” me.

  10. I’ll admit that I’ve done this. Actually, the prior incarnation of this blog was the first one I did that with–about a week after you stopped posting regularly on it. Somehow I come across a blog (either through a message board or through a link from another blog that I regularly read), enjoy the first couple of posts I read, and then go to the beginning of the blog to make my way through the whole thing. I’m one of those people who wants to know the story from the start–not just because of the history, but also to see how that person’s life has evolved over time.

    Truthfully, it’s better than reading a good book, because it’s *real life*. Although real life doesn’t always have a happy ending, reading how someone deals with a less-than-perfect outcome has, at times, given me the courage to pick up with my own life and keep going after a major disappointment. And for that, I thank you (as well as the other writers whose blogs I follow).

    1. Tisha, it feels like you’ve been around since WAY before I took that huge hiatus! That’s probably why I didn’t notice that you’d ever did a novel-read of my blog…I wasn’t here to notice! I’m honored to know that you were one of the ones who made it through all of that. I think you guys deserve a medal or something for sticking it through (and for sticking around, after!).

  11. Oh my gosh, I’ve never even thought about then and now and how a person who clicks through for hours and hours might interpret me…I think that for me, I’ve just thought about that kind of reader as being one that just wanted to see if the transplant worked out, if the kid got help with the crazy, ya know?

    Thanks for making me think about the archives in a different way. Whoa…some 1200+. Oy.

    1. Julia, your blog is one that I’ve had on my “read this thing from start to finish” list for a while now. Christmas break is coming up…I’ll probably need that long to get through it all!

  12. Not the same, but I stumbled through some of my own archives the other night because I was looking for something, and it was really helpful to note some of the details of my own story that I’d forgotten. Life just blows by and it’s hard to grab hold of it sometimes.

    It’s always going to be intriguing, because you’re an interesting person with an interest in the world, and the people, around you. I saw you tell that one story of the girls who write for Aiming Low, and you had us all waiting to hear what was next. No worries about that. It’s just a different kind of intrigue.

    And I think right now, today, I’d like to know how things are going to go just a little bit, because they haven’t been great, and I’d like to have an idea of when the turnaround will be. Minus that clue, I’ll just have to hope that it’s soon. xo LaurieScribble

    1. “And I think right now, today, I’d like to know how things are going to go just a little bit, because they haven’t been great, and I’d like to have an idea of when the turnaround will be. Minus that clue, I’ll just have to hope that it’s soon.”

      THAT. Exactly that. I am waiting for my “turnaround.” I hope that it’s soon. I have faith that one is coming. I just hope I can hold out until it gets here.


  13. I have never really thought about who, or how often, someone reads my blog posts, but I have always been aware of the fact that by writing a lifestyle blog vs. a niche blog you are vulnerable to exposing more of your personal life. I try to write keeping that in mind, because you really don’t know whose actually reading and for what purpose. I do not want my blog to become an online diary.

  14. Loved this post! It’s really interesting to think about readers thinking of as characters and our lives as stories. Are we three dimensional or two? Are we Anna Karenina or a Danielle Steel novel? And as both the author and the character, how far do we go to keep our stories interesting?

    Lots to think about here.

  15. Moxie, thank you so for noticing. I saw your thoughtful comments on Uppercase Woman and it led me to read your story right from the beginning. You are a wonderful writer and I hope to read more about el cinco and your ideas on infertility soon. Thank you.

  16. Would I? Good question (I know I’m over 2 months late to the party here). I would and I wouldn’t. I don’t think I would want to know the future as it might negate the path to it, but I’m not great with surprises (really?)

    as for Dear Reader (this is what compelled me to comment on this initially) I’m slowly doing the same with Julia (there be hypogriffs) I’ve been slowly reading from ?the start for about 18 months now, maybe longer. Even though I know what the ‘ending’ is – so far (is there ever an ending? skidding to a halt? what?).
    I initially needed to see how she circumnavigated the same issue (BT) and then got hooked on the voice-thing. I never thought about if she would be aware someone was delving through the archives, maybe I should tell her, what do you reckon?? Implicit etiquette to blog-diving? Figured the massive comments action would mask much of my nosings about!

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