New Castle News

Lisa Madras

June 18, 2012

Lisa Madras: A novel with multiple plot lines? It’s the story of my life

NEW CASTLE — If your life was a novel, what would the title be and how would your story end?

There's a little game I like to play with myself every so often, and this week's question is at the heart of it. It was 2006 when I first saw the movie "Stranger Than Fiction," an odd, yet thought-provoking flick about an IRS auditor named Harold Crick whose life is suddenly narrated by a voice in his head.

Coincidentally, I had just become a full-time blogger, and had noticed that I had an annoying habit of thinking in narration myself.

"As I waited impatiently at the red light, a glance in the rearview mirror unveiled an unexpected drama unfolding behind me. My hand, which had been reaching for the Diet Rite in the consul, moved instead to shield the glaring midday sun from my eyes so that I could get a better view."  Yeah, seriously. It's no wonder I have a hard time falling asleep at night. I'm hoping that this is a normal phenomenon for a writer. (If it isn't, please don't tell me.)

I've even gone so far as to pick out a few favorite songs to put on the soundtrack should my fake-novel life ever be made into a fake-movie life.  Sure, I know it's cliche, but "Life is a Highway" will most definitely be playing over the final credits as I race down an unknown highway in my chocolate brown Audi R8 Spyder in pursuit of my next adventure. (Now you know how it ends, although you don't really, and I love being difficult like that. It wouldn't be MY story otherwise!)

But the ever elusive title — ay, there's the rub! I remember several years ago being asked by the former publisher of The News to write my memoir in seven words or less. After several days of hemming and hawing and looking for inspiration from everyone else's seven-word responses, I finally felt confident in my summary: "Too Bad I Hated Myself Most."

This poor publisher was troubled by my response, but I, on the other hand, had accepted it with a type of cool resignation. It was the truth. Still is, in many ways. But as my story continues to rewrite itself day after day, year after year, I find that old summary fading into more of a chapter title, faint and uninteresting compared to "I Can't Believe I'm a Mommy," and "Still Don't Understand the Whole Duck-face Thing."

One thing I suppose I should be thankful for is that my novel already has had pretty much everything that guarantees a spot on the best-sellers list: comedy, tragedy, romance, mystery, horror, and enough plot twists and turns that you'd think Shakespeare, M. Night Shyamalan, Maya Angelou, and Danielle Steele had thrown a handful of plot lines into a blender during a drunken brainstorming party.

I definitely could have done without the drama and heartache. But like any good story, I suppose it needed to be in there so the heroine (Hey, that's ME!) could learn and grow as a person, and maybe even, oh, I don't know, start writing a blog that hopefully helps someone else along the way.

Whenever anybody asks me to share my story, I'm happy to do so, perhaps because I'm always looking for a kindred spirit or at least a tenuous connection to disprove my feelings of isolation. But putting it into an actual novel? Nah. It doesn't matter if my story is interesting to anyone else —  just that it's interesting to me, because I'm the one living it every day.

I know that so far it's been one of crazy highs and lows, but that's the great thing about having a life that's stranger than fiction: it keeps me wanting to turn the page to see what happens next.

In the end, it will simply be the end. And that's when I'll know what the title is. Until then, I think I'm going to go with "Life is What You Have .. Grab Ahold."

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