Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Breaking the Laws of Physics

Stephen Hawking has a story that is begging to be told, and I would have given the proverbial arm to have the privilege of writing it. But he's not the only great story - I see one in the face of every person I meet. What is behind the shy hesitancy of my mail carrier's daily greeting? Why does the Starbucks clerk tug his earlobe before counting change? Where does the Capitol building security guard go in such a hurry at 10:30am sharp every day? Questions like these often lead to an interesting story, and it is up to the writer to turn interesting into compelling. That takes trust.

Writing a biographical story, whether fictionalized or not, requires a ghost to delve into deeply personal aspects of the subject's life, developing an intimacy and trust powerful enough to pull even the most reluctant client's secrets into study. Unlike a psychologist or a bartender, a ghost almost becomes the other person, settling into his psyche like two individuals impossibly occupying the same time and space.

It's breathtaking. I find myself treasuring the temporary feel of this other soul's life. And then I think and write, and think and write again, carefully choosing how to repackage the story to reveal only that which the subject is willing to share publicly, but told with such depth as can only be achieved by falling into that infinite black hole of his sorrows and shames, by traveling in his history, by hearing him sing in quantum strings of joy, by surrounding myself in the spatial fabric of his truth.

The personality of the tale - not the facts - is what makes a story compelling. There's nothing so rewarding to me, as a ghostwriter, than being able to earn my subject's trust enough to briefly break the laws of physics. I don't know about you, but I cannot wait until New Year's to see how Hawkings' story is told.

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