It might feel like reading about a licensed lawyer writing a paranormal novel is a little inconsistent. But there is a single through-line through everything I do: I am, at heart, a storyteller. If you start to look at everything as storytelling, you will find it easier to write anything, from legal briefs to speculative fiction.
This post is part of a month-long social media takeover by writer and owner Lisa Schmidt in honor of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In addition to writing blogs, web content and legal briefs, Lisa is a fiction writer. During the month of November, she is taking a break from legal writing to focus on the more creative side of the craft. Learn more about NaNoWriMo and follow Lisa’s 30-day writing journey on Your Law Geek’s Facebook or Instagram pages.
What’s Your Story?
I was an in-court family lawyer for almost 10 years before I transitioned to the Your Law Geek brand. On any given day, as a litigator, a potential client might walk into my office, sit down, and tell me a story.
See every narrative is a story, even the ones you tell yourself. You decide what to pay attention to, what to gloss over, what is important, and what couldn’t possibly really be true. Litigators know this well. I used to say there are three stories in every divorce: his, hers, and the truth. (Of course, in same-sex marriages it’s his, his, or hers, hers.)
It’s not that we want to spin stories to ourselves. It’s that our personal storytelling is shaped by what we already believe to be true about our lives. By telling ourselves, and the professionals in our lives, incomplete or misleading narratives, we can get ourselves stuck in feelings of victimization, unfairness, or confusion. In other words, we start telling fiction.
Storytelling, Narrative, and Building the Truth of the World Around Us
When writing legal briefs, that storytelling becomes intentional. As lawyers, we learn about the importance of emphasizing the strengths of our case and glossing over the weaknesses. The most compelling litigators’ closing arguments are the ones that seize the imaginations of the jury, and persuade the judge of the truth of the matter. It is the art of storytelling that turns a set of uncovered and discovered facts into a believable series of events.
Of course, as advocates, we are stuck with the facts as they come to us. Sometimes, that story isn’t particularly sympathetic. We have to find ways to make our clients someone the judge or jury can get behind. By crafting an empathetic and believable story, we persuade the decision makers to rule in our favor.
Freedom of Storytelling in Speculative Fiction
What sets fiction apart from the storytelling that happens in courtrooms across the country every day is that when I write a novel, I have complete control of the narrative. I can craft a sympathetic and compelling story from a whole cloth, rather than a compilation of the facts presented to me. This means that when I am writing to persuade, I can create a world where my readers are most likely to say yes.
Speculative fiction is the purest form of storytelling – where everything from the color of a woman’s dress to the number moons are at the writer’s disposal. Speculative fiction writers have the ability to craft a world that most clearly conveys their purpose, giving the reader permission to say yes when ordinarily they would say no.
Not every sci-fi or fantasy story is trying to win an argument in the same way a legal brief does. But every book, brief, and closing argument tells a story. By embracing the storytelling in what we do, we can make a stronger case on behalf of our clients, our principles, and the fantastic worlds we create in our minds.
Lisa J. Schmidt is a writer, owner of Your Law Geek, and facilitator of Chasing Your Tale: Building Your Writer’s Toolkit hosted by the SheHive in Ferndale, Michigan. If you want to write along with Lisa, sign up for her weekly write-in sessions during NaNoWriMo or contact Lisa directly here.