I was talking, ok, ok, gossiping, with a friend. We love to gossip. We have justified this by making a distinction between gossiping to judge and score points and gossiping for the sheer love of people and their stories. We do the latter and, therefore, are not bad people. In fact, we are good people because we are so interested in our fellow human being sharing the journey with us. (Work with me here.)
My friend (she knows who she is, you don’t need to) suggested that rather than making up stories, or reading made up stories, it would be better to have someone’s diary to read, someone interesting, obviously.
I thought about it. Real life can be highly engaging, funny, sad, dramatic, and the characters are obviously complex and real (being, you know, real), but it needs more to make it a story.
An account of all of even one life would include lots of possible stories. They would all get tangled up. If you knit lots of different coloured strands of wool together, you can make lovely patterns. If you just leave them in a heap, they are an unsatisfying lump. Aristotle says that a story must have a beginning, a middle and an end, JUST a beginning, a middle and an end, no extra bits. You don’t get that in a real life. In fact you often don’t get a proper end at all, things can just fizzle out in an unsatisfactory way or merge with another story. And it an be hard to pin down where the start is at all. Real life lacks a satisfying structure.
So, I conclude, gossip/interesting facts and speculations about the lives of other people can provide great material for stories, but are not stories in themselves. And you have to remember the writers’ rule that just because it happened does not make it believable.