The other day, someone told me about the nature of Native American oral history. I’m sure I don’t understand it completely but this is what I gathered.
I tell you a story here and now and pass it to you. It is yours now.
It is the very essence of oral tradition.
It got me thinking about medium of transmission. So many stories are consumed out of context. We, as authors, must provide that context in our work. It’s difficult because certain variables cannot be maintained. A book can be read anywhere. A book can be digital and read on any number of devices, also anywhere. Place is arbitrary. Outside. Inside. By a river. In a city. This is external to the context authors provide in story. It can’t be controlled. Should it?
Imagine requiring people to consume your work under strict circumstances. You need to be twenty-six years old and be eating a cucumber while wearing a hat on this day of the year. It is the only way you will understand my work.
I know. Control freak. Okay. You can eat a pickle instead.
It’s an unhealthy comparison to make. The medium is different. Oral history and the written word are quite different animals. But it does get at the nature of story. It hints at some of the questions we like to ask. We can apply the transmission of a story internally for that specific story. Apply it to the universe in your work. It is a universe. Environmental details provide context. History provides context. Place provides context. The weather, smells, clothing, location. The economy, politics, gender relations, race relations. Religions, sects, lackthereof. Animals, creatures, diseases, dominant paradigms. Sub-cultures, pop cultures, war, privilege. These and more create life in your universe. Context. It becomes tangible.
We can control inside the document.
Outside. We cannot. Release Control.
Release your work into the wild.
So now I tell you this and it is yours to pass on if you feel the need. Or keep it for yourself. Own it, make it your own. Dismiss it. Challenge it.