I don’t have one, a compelling personal story. Nope, nary a really good tale, let alone a whole life story, just one pleasant ordinary life. I always thought CPS was the one told when you, you know, did something MAJOR. I was raised on the lives of the saints as CPS…those who suffered and died for their faith, believing that eternal life with God was the better deal. Or the biographies of those who were first–first to see a river, or first to climb the highest mountain, or first meet a new ethnic group [but we didn’t call them ethnic groups back then]. And being first meant the unknown, the fact that you had no idea what hazards lay ahead but you went anyway. And, the one thing these CPSs had in common? They were about dead people, lives well led, fully spent, done.
There’s a saying in the Euripides story of the Trojan Women when Troy has been sacked, the husbands killed and the children are sacrificed to the gods or turned into slaves. Somewhere along the way, Hucuba, wife of Priam, Queen of Troy says, “Count no one happy, however fortunate, before he dies.” That made sense.
Which brings me to the Orson Welles quote, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” The political climate of now being what it is, you don’t need a whole story anymore, and so the converse must be true [I studied Logic in college, the logic syllogism—if A is true and B is true, then C must be true or not] then, If you want a compelling personal story, that depends, of course, on where you start your story,” meaning it may not be the whole story, just one compelling personal vignette. Because that’s what many of these CPSs are today, a brief evocative description, account, or episode, not a story, a whole story.
So, to me, a verification of a compelling personal story is the whole story, not just a couple of years, but the WHOLE of it.
I’m writing a narrative non-fiction. This is the story of a man of fortunate background, aristocratic, well-educated, in a stable home, loving parents, older brothers, raised in a castle, having a brilliant mind, excellent in school, transferring into a career, successful. Very little in this is compelling, it all seems so easy, excellent name recognition opening doors, a life of interest, but not so that you’d write a book about it fifty years later. In this case, the CPS comes from his death. A meaningless, stupid, senseless death that did not have to be. And because it is so meaningless, stupid and senseless, changing the world, mourned by millions for what would now NOT happen, his life now is compelling, because everything he did, all that was in him, all that he worked to accomplish was over, perhaps never to return again. How sad for the rest of us.
Every one should tell at least one compelling personal story, it doesn’t have to be their own, it doesn’t even have to be real, but it does have to be a whole story, compelling and necessary. I hope I can do this one justice.