Day 12: Who Owns a Story?

So after two long, but very nice, days, I was thinking of writing a quick, non-emotional story for the next day of this challenge.  I figured it was a throwaway day–it’s a Saturday night, and maybe no one will be up for reading a blog post.  However, something has been weighing on my mind since I began this project.  It’s a bigger issue–one that I’m sure a trained writer has worked through either in a school program or just through experience.  Or who knows?  Maybe no one has a true answer to this and I’m just realizing the biggest dilemma of all for myself for the first time.  My question is: who “owns” a story?  Let me elaborate:

At the beginning of this project, I brainstormed a list of stories that come to mind when I think about interesting, enlightening, or stressful times in my life that are worth working into the narrative of this representation of 30 years.  At the bottom of the list, past the area of actual possibilities, I created a second list–the “these will never go online” lists.  They are the stories that I deemed inappropriate for an innocent, yet public, forum such as this blog.  I’ve been realizing as I go that I’m unclear about whether these stories at the bottom of the page should ever be told.  What purpose would I be serving by sharing them?  You all have them–stories about past relationships, about being wronged, about mistakes, about fights, or about personal or family hardships that significantly shifted your life.  They are ones that may or may not put you in a good light.  But what’s more important–is that many of these do not put others in a good light, and that’s the issue here.  And other than the possibility of actually getting in trouble for hurting someone’s character, who are you to decide if a story should be told without the other person to defend their side of things?

I’m  being vague because this applies to so many stories I’ve come across on my list.  This blog (as much as I respect it) is not worthy of these stories that most strongly affect me. But that sparks the question–if they mean so much to me, where and when do I tell them?  How does a writer decide when and where a personally significant or deeply influential story is meant to be told?  I think this can be asked of theatre as well.  Do you put your life on the stage if it risks marring the message of something that altered you and your loved ones’ lives?  Or does it serve you more to keep them for yourself?

I find myself skimming the surface with these 30 days of tales.  And at times, I worry they make it look like my “hardships” or journey are anecdotes about travel woes or brushes with frustrating jobs.  But the real ones, the ones that truly make me who I am, involve so many other characters that they cannot be told in this manner.  So what do you do?

Thoughts?  I am open, and thankful, for any advice.

Have a safe a happy night, everyone!

3 responses to “Day 12: Who Owns a Story?”

  1. It’s a tough question, and I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rule. Each experience is different, and sharing it can affect you in a number of ways, good or bad. If it’s your experience, then you have a stake in it and have the right to share it if you wish to. If there were other people involved, then nothing’s stopping them from sharing their side as well if they want.


    • It’s trickier than I made it sound, mainly for legal reasons, but I’ve never really read specifics about them until now. Apparently it’s quite easy to sue someone for writing about their privacy, which is why most publications ask that you don’t write about anyone by name without their permission. I guess it’s just about finding the balance between having a personal stake in a story and not harming anyone’s reputation in the process.


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