No Such Thing as a True Story


I’ve always loved telling stories. In elementary school I got the best storyteller award and made my dad proud. I’ve worked diligently to refine my craft since then. My wife usually grows impatient of a story I’m telling in social settings because I take the time to meticulously setup the details—and the tension—for where I’m ultimately taking it. It’s an art really (and apparently somewhat of an acquired taste).

In his book Trying to Save Piggy Sneed, John Irving points out an important element of storytelling:

This is a memoir, but please understand that (to any writer with a good imagination) all memoirs are false… we can always imagine a better detail than the one we can remember. The correct detail is rarely, exactly, what happened, or what should have.

I heartily agree and I’ve written along these lines in describing the role of an artist. I’m often accused of telling “my version” of a story with the implication that “my version” doesn’t always align with the straight facts. That’s why it’s been so fun to preach at Central. I get to tell the real version of the stories my dad has been telling for years!

I’ve even had some of my family members (who will remain anonymous as a result of my overflowing love) try and unofficially ban some of my stories. You know, like the one where I was disciplined as a kid with that thing that holds your pants up, or that time I threw up on the side of the road and didn’t receive a lot of compassion…

I won’t name any specifics.

I know that someday one of my kids will take a liking to storytelling and I’ll hear all sorts of versions of stories told back to me in ways I don’t remember them. But that’s the beauty of life.

If you are the person constantly complaining about the storytellers in your life, let it go. They just have a more imaginative memory than you do. And if you are the storyteller, then keep weaving your beautiful commentary through the mundane experiences of the everyday.

Okay, so I’ll admit the last couple of sentences were a bit biased.

There’s no such thing as a true story. Let go of science and enjoy the art of good storytelling (ironically, science has actually proven that the more we retell stories the more we change the way that we remember them, and thus the story itself). There’s always more than meets the eye. The joy of storytelling is that, to quote Irving, you get to tell life as it “should have” happened.

Have you heard any good stories lately?

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Jeremy Jernigan

This is the personal blog of Jeremy Jernigan. Husband to Michelle and father to Gavin, Madsen, Adelyn, Aiden, and Abel. Author of Redeeming Pleasure and Lead Pastor at Abundant Life Church in Portland.

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