Skip to main content

FAST CLASS: Writing Your Story

Lesson 12 of 17

Developing Your Container

 

FAST CLASS: Writing Your Story

Lesson 12 of 17

Developing Your Container

 

Lesson Info

Developing Your Container

tell me the big idea of your story. Um, I wanted to write about my childhood. My childhood? Yeah. You told me DP big. Yeah. Okay, um, on. Then how that's impacted me as a mom and as a as an adult. Okay, um, was this a happy childhood? I mean, they were happy parts, but I wouldn't say it was No, no, uh, having heard a little bit about right, you don't have to be a good girl. Okay? Yeah. Um, tell me some of the things that were difficult in your shop. It s so I grew up with the youngest of three daughters in an alcoholic household, um, in Westchester County, New York, which is a very affluent suburb. So I had a dad who was sort of, you know, drinking a lot. And there was a lot of yelling, but I had a mom who was really trying to preserve the image of our family, um, and make it seem like everything was OK, so I'm going to because of time constraints. I'm going to tell you that I happen to know a story of Liz is that I think will make a good container for this big story of troubled marria...

ge. Privileged family looking good on the outside, but really trouble parents fighting daughters trying to make it. Okay. Alcoholic parent daughter trying to care. Take the parents, um, tell us about, uh, the last Christmas that your parents were married. So I remember I was about eight, and, um, all I wanted that christmas was a cabbage patch kid. Um, but what I wanted even more than the cabbage Patch kid waas for my mom to get a mink coat. Um, and the reason for that is because my mom had desperately wanted a mink coat, and that seems like such a first world problem. But don't ever apologize for your experience. This is your life. You don't have to say. I know people are starving in Syria. It's okay for her. The mink coat represented much more than than something fashionable. It was. It was acceptance because all her friends had a fur coat, and it was love for my dad that he would get her off her coat. And it was, um, acceptance. And, um and Liza told me a story we waded talked before about this particular Christmas when her mother wanted to make coat, and she had been there. She was working, helping out at a cocktail party where she was checking the coats and all the other mothers had mink coats on. Her mother had this wool coat, and, um, on a little bit of cross examination, I got the scene of driving home from the party where Liza's mother let her father know that she was the only one who didn't have a mink coat. So we've got a build up some tension to Christmas, and I love it that there are two simultaneous. Remember we talked about who's our character? What does she want? She wants a cabbage patch. So there's There's the Cabbage Patch story. But the interesting thing is, that wasn't even the most important thing. She wanted her mother to be happy, and anybody who grew up in an alcoholic family knows about that story. You just want to make it okay, so we get to Christmas morning and of course, we're gonna have some beats before that. We won't talk about, but not a lot of them way we could get to this one. Pretty bam bam, bam! It's Christmas morning and you're under the tree, and and also, I mean the night before Christmas. So Christmas Eve, when most people are listening for sleigh bells. Um, you know, I remember the screaming and the, you know, the I just that that's this story also allows me to talk about how unhappy the nights were and then and you were worried about Santa then maybe like, what if Santa comes while this is going right? Yeah. So, Christmas morning, Christmas morning. I remember it. And we I was watching the presence dwindle under the tree, and I was eyeing them to see if anyone of them could have fit a mink coat. And I got my cabbage patch kid, which was really exciting. But word is hyper vigilant, but we'll never use it in our right. Right? So I just noticed, like, nothing under the tree is gonna fit a mink coat. My mom's not going to get it. And I just remember how, um, much that affected me because I just wanted her to be happy. Yes. And then what happened? So then my dad, I was like, Oh, I forgot something in the kitchen and any wanders off into the kitchen with his Johnnie Walker. And, um, he came back with a big gold box and my mom's face just lit up. And, um, you know, she knew what it waas and we all knew what it waas. And it was like this brief glimmer of hope. And, um and so she opened in. It was a fur coat and she stood up to try it on, and he and this is where I would slow down time. But he like he took it back from her. What? And he said, That's not yours yet. So he was like, just first he teased her by not having it under the tree. And then he you won't need to tell the readers they're very smart. So you'll they'll get that on again just for time. I'm going to. So your mother had toe earn this coat on. What were some of the things that she did so well? So as a six year old or seven year what, however old I was I was definitely under nine, So I was probably between six and eight. I know that she what I was thinking was, maybe he found out that when she runs the vacuum to make the lines that he wants to see when he comes in the door. Maybe he knows it's unplugged because she would just do that, um, to please him. And, um Or maybe she found his booze in the toilet tank where he used to hide it. Or so this is a container that allows for us to explore a lot of aspect of this family's behavior. I'm gonna kind of jump to the Forgive me. Um, she got the coat. She eventually got the coat. Did the marriage survive? No. The marriage ended shortly after, but you said something when you first introduced this idea that I wanted to remind everybody off that her childhood informs the way she raises her Children. And you told me a story about, um if we had more time, I'd ask you Thio, tell this yourself that Liza said I said, What's your relationship with your father now? And she said, Well, I mostly talked to him once a year when he he calls to see what the kids want for Christmas, and it occurs to me that that's a container. Actually, this father and Christmas this this man who doesn't know how to show love except with things tha giving of things, the taking away of things on Do something tells me that Christmas is very different in your family. But there there actually is a potential even with this story and this man whose behavior is pretty obviously, uh, emotionally abusive that we can actually locate a certain poignancy. He doesn't know what to do. There he is now. An old man, Probably 75. 80. Um, And he he's trying the one time he communicates with his daughter and basically the Onley language he can speak to his grandchildren is What do you want for Christmas? Thank you, E hate Teoh. You know, I don't wanna oversimplify because all of these stories deserve mawr. Candace, come on up here. This is called This is like the speed dating of container stories. Candace, what's your big? You have many big stories, but you have one obvious big story. Okay? Yes. So I lost my leg when I was 21. Um, I got caught in a conveyor belt at a paper mill and it was a summer job that I was working, um, at while going to university And, uh, it was an unguarded machine, and I caused me to have my left leg amputated below the knee. And if there's any doubt, this is not ruin this woman's life, I'll just say she ran 10-K in Golden Gate Park yesterday on. I've seen her on the stand up paddleboard, but Okay, so, big idea. I lost my leg, and I am knowing something of Candace, who has had a pretty impressive almost 20 years since then. Um, uh, this was not the tragedy to end them all. You've carried on, and in many ways it's made you who you are today. Um, the big, obvious story would be the story of how Candace lost her leg. I actually, and I'm sure it some point, you know, you'll write it and you've told it. But that's not the story that I want you to tell, because that's the big obvious story. So I wanted you to tell me. Tell everybody the little story that you told me the other day. Um, it was It was when I realized that I could get thes prosthetic legs that were made in England by the same person that made Paul McCartney's ex wives legs. And this was a big gray of hope because my legs after I had lost my riel leg. We're a shell foot you picked off of 5 ft, you know? So not a reasonable replacement for the 21 year old, beautiful young year old. So and that was very hard for harder on my mother and father than it was on me. And I could see that file that away harder on my mother and father than it was on me. Yeah, and and so once I had learned to walk and recognize that you know what your leg looks like Doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, but it's never gonna be your riel leg. So I was mentally prepared to get this new leg that was going to be a reasonable facsimile and molded off my other leg and the Workers Compensation Board, who I was actually working for within a year, going out and speaking to high school students about not getting hurt at work. But the other side of it, the compensation side, who was responsible for getting me back on my foot again. Their feet uh, they they said no that they weren't going thio pay for these legs because they were excessive and it was not necessary. So I appealed it. And on the day of the appeal, um, I had asked my father if he would come with me, and I knew this was gonna be a huge feat for him because I remember the first day that we went to a prosperous and they showed me, ah, leg and said I would stick a wrench in the back and crank it to put my heel up and down and that I would have holes poked in it. If I wanted to go in the water, it would drain. And I My father had walked outside and threw up. Um, like, I was only girl. I'm my mom too. But they were being strong for each other. Different points in time. Anyhow, I I said to Dad, Will you come with me? And he said, Okay. And I could tell us the hard thing for him and I said, Dad, we're gonna go in feet first here. You know, we've got to get all my other legs and show them what they look like. He's beat up. You know legs that I was just learning to walk on your training wheels. Really? On. Duh. He said, Where's your leg bag? And I said, no, no, we're not going with the leg bag, you know, just grab him. So he had a couple of my fake legs, and I had a couple of my Facebook get this picture. She chooses not to put the legs in the bag and cover him up. Her dad is carrying these legs. Yeah, walking down the street. Yeah. Yeah, we went on. And then we got into the building and there was an elevator. So I'm going for my big appeal to show like, this is what you think I should have to live with for the rest of my life. And I'm 21 and we got into the elevator and he was very nervous. I mean, what if they said no? Or what if e. I don't need to tell you a lot of things to be nervous. Was your father a sophisticated guy used to going up against big corporate types? No, no, no. My dad's a truck are very smart, man. Um, but no, not enough. Not enough of situation? No, but im his world. So that Z that's all that really mattered in that elevator. And we were on our way up, and I could just tell he was so nervous. And I was trying to be really positive, you know? And I was like, Dad is gonna be okay, you know? And so I'm probably trying to tell myself that too. She's caretaking her dad on when the elevator stopped. It wasn't on the floor we needed. And there was a man standing there, and the doors is kind of went this. There's me and my dad in the middle with these legs, and the guy looks in and and I just looked at him and I said, There's not enough Not very much leg room left in here. You might wanna wait for the next elevator and the elevator door shut. And I remember my father. All he could do was look, and then he pinched me because I think if he thought I if he said one thing, he might have just he was so proud. Um, yeah, and and and I don't know, like to me. You got the legs. I I did not that day, but I thought and I and I ended up getting it. But it was it was a really to me. That whole thing was about how the container was the whole like that. And I'm gonna tell you what your life was about. Okay? You tell me. Oh, interpreting. No, no, no, no. I don't think this is about Candace getting the leg. I think this is about, ah, father whose daughter is his world. And every loving parent knows that your child's pain is worse than any pain that could happen to you. Ah, Father, witnessing his daughter's pain and feeling powerless and absolute animal desire to protect. That's what I think. I think your father is it the core of this story? You were going to be OK, but even in the elevator, you were worried about whether your father was going to be okay. I'm so tourney about the leg room line because it's a fabulous line, but it's kind of a one liner, and it almost distract from the depth of the story. I think this is and you know there are different. As you said. You know, your mother loves you too, and you know, you two great. But this particular story is Candace's mother important figure in this story. She doesn't really exist in this story. For the purpose of she's not watching. No, no, no, it's fine. You know, I do this with my Children, you know, like, I'll just take one. You know, at a time this happens to be your father's glory moment. He I know from another conversation that Candace and I had that she described tell about when you were in the hospital and the nurse spoke of the of the whaling. Oh, yeah. This is the day of right. Well, this was this. I'm a motivational speaker. And so I was giving speech a few years after I had been injured. No, I'm talking about screen. Yeah, but that was the story told to me. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So I was speaking it. That's OK. I was speaking at a high school, and the teacher, um, came up to me after my speech and told me that she remembered being a ta hospital that day. The day that I was admitted and a lot of people, because I'm from a small town feel the need to still, after years, tell me where they were the day I got hurt, what they were doing, and it's all lovely. And she she started to tell me, and I'm so used to that that I just was listening to her. And then she she said that she would never forget the scream that she heard. And I said to her that I didn't remember being in the hospital. I passed out in the ambulance and she stopped and she just said, It's not your scream I'll never forget It was your father's when he showed up because my mom was in our and a half away. So he was the first to arrive. And, you know, to think of your your parent in pain like that is, uh, so I can't imagine what it would be like for them to think of me. Yeah s Oh, I do know I've heard a lot about Candace's mother and she she loves you, too, and she sounds great. But this is a story about a father and a daughter and a father's love for his daughter, and a father's sense of powerlessness that he's used to being your big protector. and he did not know what to do. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thank you. Thank you. Okay, I You know, I I have to apologize, Teoh, the people whose stories I blasted through so much faster than I would love to blast through. But I also know you're getting it. You're really smart, You're getting it. And that is a process that I want all of you to do with yourself to begin with that big global idea and then locate the small story that might allow you to explore it. And in the small story, for instance, Candice's story, we'll have a flashback to or we'll have contained within that the story of the teacher coming up to you and speaking of the screen. And it turns out it wasn't your screen, because that's what it's about, that his pain was greater even than yours.

Class Description

FAST CLASS:

Try a Fast Class – now available to all Creator Pass subscribers! Fast Classes are shortened “highlight” versions of our most popular classes that let you consume 10+ hours in about 60 minutes. We’ve edited straight to the most popular moments, actionable techniques, and profound insights into bite-sized chunks– so you can easily find and focus on what matters most to you. (And of course, you can always go back to the full class for a deep dive into your favorite parts.)

Full-length class: Writing Your Story with Joyce Maynard

SUBSCRIBE TO CREATOR PASS and cue up this class and other FAST CLASS classes anytime.

Everyone’s got a story to tell. Some are funny. Some are inspiring. Others are tragic. But no matter how compelling your story might seem, it won’t resonate with readers unless you’re able to effectively translate your concept onto the page.

Celebrated journalist, novelist, and memoirist Joyce Maynard will give you the tools you need to transform your brilliant idea into an absorbing memoir that readers won’t be able to put down.

Maynard will begin by walking you through the process of identifying your story and how best to tell it. She’ll then help you develop your story through language, story structure, dramatic tension, dialogue, description, and editing. Finally, she’ll address the challenges of the writing life, such as how to create a productive practice, design a comfortable writing space, deal with rejection, and find an audience.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Understand the difference between telling what happened and exploring your journey.
  • Figure out what to include in your story and what to cut out.
  • Decide on a point of view, a point of entry, and a structure.
  • Get over your fears of revealing embarrassing truths about yourself.
  • Stop worrying about being judged.
  • Deal with loneliness and find your tribe.
  • Develop the arc of a sentence, a paragraph, and a story.
  • Listen to the sound and rhythm of your sentences.

Reviews