Telling your second story

This article was written for the September Carnival of Aces, themed on “Telling our stories“.

When I spoke on a panel at Creating Change in 2013, I prepared and polished 30 second speech to introduce myself and how I came to identify as ace. That was my first story. Which is not to say that it was the first story that I ever told about myself, but that for most people in the audience, it was the first (and likely only) story they would ever hear about me.

I do not tell my first story very often. Something about regular blogging hammers the habit out of you. I can only tell so many first stories. Eventually I have to move on to a second story, perhaps even a third. If I were to write out a first story again, it might be new to most of you, but then it would no longer be new, and I would have to move on again.

What is the distinction between a first and a second story? In Asexuality Archive’s article, “Ambassador From Aceland“, it is argued that many of the stories we tell are all about presenting a certain image, and being a good representative. Certainly that is how I used my first story at Creating Change. But I would say the same is also true of my second stories, which are still, after all, intended for consumption. I rarely tell a story just for its own sake; I tell it because I have a point to make. My goal is to present an image that makes my point compelling.

The distinction I would make between a first and second story, is that a first story is load-bearing. A first story has the burden of explaining all that needs to be explained. It represents all the experiences that need representing. A second story does not need to do anything. A second story knows there are other stories that can pick up the slack. A second story might make some important points, but they’re not so essential that we’re going to start reading blog posts aloud at ace panels.

To give some examples of second stories, I’ll draw upon my topics bin. Like many bloggers, I have a bunch of topic ideas recorded (in a note-taking app) and they tend to just sit there for years. Here are a few:

How I eloped – Did you notice, I got married in the past year? This is that story. It’s a story about healthcare, taxes, ceremony, and celebration. Or maybe I’ll just write about one of those things, and then write the other stories later, or not at all. I don’t need to tell the whole story all at once, you see; no single story needs to hold it all together.

Those magic words “I love you” – One thing I learned from the media, is that when someone says “I love you”, it’s a big deal, a showstopper. Despite being told how to feel about the phrase, I still don’t feel that way, and this hypothetical article argues that people are being unnecessarily prescriptive. This is not the story of any particular incident, but rather telling a story about an emotional reaction I have to a discourse about love.

Abundance/scarcity models in representation – I will contrast two different models for thinking about ace representation in fiction. There are no plans to include personal experiences in this article, so does it really count as a story? Yes, of course. It’s a story about how people react to fictional representation, and how there is another point of view to consider. Although I understand that when people say we need more “stories”, they usually mean personal stories rather than the kind of political narrative we weave when we make persuasive arguments.

Do any of these topics give you ideas to tell your own second stories? Perhaps not, because these are all very specific stories that possibly nobody but me could tell. If you’re looking for writing advice, I’m not sure I have much to offer that would actually be useful.

Hmm… Well, you should definitely keep notes on any ideas you have, and let them sit around for years. And it’s good to keep stories narrow in scope. Don’t say all the things you “need” to say about a subject–you can say them later, each in a separate story if necessary.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
This entry was posted in Articles, Blogging, personal experience. Bookmark the permalink.

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