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This is the Story of Who I Am

February 20, 2011


This is the story of who I am.

All stories begin with an ‘event’, a traumatic experience that leaves the protagonist all shook -up, emotional and unsettled. Our hero quickly establishes a goal, a pathway to somewhere safe and comfortable, and embarks upon an epic voyage of twists and turns.

I’m guessing the most traumatic experience in my life was being born. I don’t remember much about it, but no other event since seems to hold the same significance. Like most other people, I have been trying to make sense of being born ever since it happened. What is life for, what is it all about?

Victor Frankl tells us in ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ that there is no general meaning of life, rather the specific meaning of our individual life at any given point in time. There can be no grand plan, he says, rather life is like a movie. It’s only when you get to the end of the film that the overall meaning becomes clear. Nevertheless we search for meaning, indeed Frankl suggests it is our quest for meaning that keeps us alive.

Stories are meaning-full. Stories are about people, and their attempts to fulfill their own personal meaning. We have an insatiable appetite for well-crafted stories because they feed our deepest need – the need to understand our own individual purpose in life.

I am a psychology student, who became a business executive, who became an executive coach, consultant and psychotherapist, who also writes novels. What ties this rag-bag of activities together is storytelling.

When I was a psychology student I was interested in people; why they behave the way they do. When I was a business executive I was interested in how to engage with others and inspire them to derring-do. As a coach I began to realise that change starts with a story – the story we tell ourselves that constitutes who we are as people. As coach and psychotherapist I help people surface their stories; the beliefs and assumptions they take for granted that underpin their self identity, and I help them rewrite those stories.

As a writer of novels I have come to realise all stories stand or fall according to the character created. Protagonists must be real. They must be likeable, or at least redeemable, and the story must relate a step in their own search for meaning, a story that will be of interest to the reader. My commitment to writing has grown as I have come to understand this better.

I have had two novels published so far, ‘The Sweet Smell of Decay’ and ‘A Plague of Sinners’, the first two books in the Chronicles of Harry Lytle. I hope you find him redeemable, if not likeable, and enjoy his journey of self discovery.

I also look forward to sharing with you some of the things I’ve learned along the way in writing these books, chronicles of my own voyage of self discovery in my quest to become a better writer. In the hope that my experiences will be of value as you seek to create your own special writing self.

  1. February 20, 2011 9:04 am

    Nice to meet you Paul!

    I agree with you that stories will live or die by the believability of the characters. I don’t personally think they have to be redeemable so much as they have to be “real”. When I write, I don’t intentionally model any characters specifically off of real people I know, but whenever I have a character do something I ask: “Can I see myself doing this if I were in this situation? Can I see someone else doing it?” If I can’t answer “yes” to those questions and if I am not intentionally writing a character who shouldn’t behave in a realistic way I know I will have to modify that behavior.

    Of course, that’s a highly boiled-down analysis of my thought process when defining characters. Also, there are times when the character needs to do something unexpected. But that happens in real life, too, so the “believable” tag can still fit!

    Looking forward to learning from and with you.

  2. February 20, 2011 1:34 pm

    ‘The Sweet Smell of Decay’. What a great title for a novel. I’m going to check it out (at my local Borders before it closes… sad day). Looking forward to more posts from you! 🙂

  3. February 21, 2011 7:13 am

    Welcome aboard!

  4. Paul Lawrence permalink
    February 23, 2011 2:11 am

    Cayla – Dymocks yes – Borders don’t stock! Love to hear what you think.

  5. Paul Lawrence permalink
    February 23, 2011 2:19 am

    Rob – let’s hold that difference. I’m influenced by some of the responses I’ve received to my own books … for example comments posted on Amazon UK. Some people really liked ‘Sweet Smell’ and some loathed it, and one of the key factors appears to be whetehr people like Harry – the central character. Those who find him self-absorbed and passive rated the book low. Those who found him somewhat charming and funny rated the book high. I find in critiquing other’s work that if I don’t like the character, I don’t want to read on. Hannibal Lecter is somewhat redeemable because he mutilates the bad guys. Dexter is likeable because he only kills villains – and so would like NOT to be a psychopath. Who can you think of – who is real and utterly without any redeeming qualities – who sits at the centrepiece of a successful story – unless we only read on to see him/her get their just desserts?

  6. February 23, 2011 11:33 am

    Hey Paul!!!!

  7. March 4, 2011 11:52 am

    Hi. Glad to get to know you and looking forward to what you read. Your background certainly seems to kit you out for writing. Looking forward to your posts.

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