When I worked as a journalist, I always said every story had another (or what I call a mother story) story behind it. It could be a small story or one bigger than the one I was assigned to cover, but every story was a palimpsest or a Hot 110: there were layers you could peel off to see what was the heart of the issue.
I called those dep and hidden layers the mother story because those orignal events impacted the event I was covering. Those stories were older and were the impetus for current events. They often were the driving force, consequence, and motive for what was newsworthy now, yet often, their existence was not newsworthy and often mentioned in passing, if they were mentioned at all.
Yet the mother story was always the key to give me perspective. Rarely were they necessary to tell or understand the story, but it helped in understanding newsmakers and what made them tick.
For example, suppose a newsmaker lost a parent as a child, and suddenly, everyone around him began to try to make up the deficit by allowing the orphan free passes: teachers allowed the child to lapse in his studies without consequence, thinking he cannot hold his own while grieving.
However, he begins to think he is now special and entitled because of that one real tragedy and begins to now expect special needs treatment in all his endeavours. Should anyone object, he spins a tale of woe to shame detractors as he satisfies himself that he do less and be morally at ease with it.
While he is young and cute, he gets away with it as a bad habit forms along with the toxic ideology and perspective. He begins to slack at work, and as a result, people get harmed and it causes a scandal.
The journalist covering the scandal is not going to care that thirty years ago, little Bobby lost his mommy to illness. He is not going to care that Bobby’s dad, aunts, and teachers shielded him and that his teenaged brain grossly misinterpreted what it all meant. The reporter is going to care that a whole bunch of innocent people got harmed because the now grown adult was not used to pulling his own weight and could deflect attention by spinning tales of a woeful life.
The newsmaker tries to spin a narrative that backfires: he refuses to take blame or responsibility, looking coldly selfish for thinking of just himself, when his behaviour caused unnecessary suffering. He doesn’t get the fact he is now a pure villain that people need protection from, not a victim who needs protecting. He thinks the role and narrative are static and unchanging: once a victim, always a victim. He is now out in public who have met him for the first time: not as a little boy crying for his mother, but a middle-aged man who coasted when he was duty-bound to be vigilant and now has a chip on his shoulder as he thinks the same ruse is a universal cure-all for all of his jams.
Sometimes it is the assessment of others that needs the adjustment. A child growing up with two parents learns to love them both, even if one parent abuses the other. How often do children of domestic homicide refuse to see that one parent murdered the other for the insurance money and to make a new life with their paramour they gleefully threw in the face of their spouse. The offspring grasp at straws, either disbelieving evidence that screams their surviving parent is a cold-blooded and manipulative psychopath, or making excuses for the act of murder, calling it a mistake, or worse, blaming the murdered parent for being killed.
The outside world becomes repulsed with the vile interpretations of deifying a killer while demonizing the victim, and then the surviving family member thinks no one understands and is making judgements without the facts, not realizing it is the outsiders who are the impartial ones who are in the position to judge the story on its merits and see both the truth and reality very clearly and accurately. It is the reason juries are not made up of your relatives, but strangers.
What those outsiders are not privy to is the inner layers, and often, it is all too easy to get lost too deep in them, having too many facts they can use as a fortress.
As a journalist, I understood the balance of facts: a story with too many facts could be as deceptive as one that did not have enough. Every story has another story behind it. Yes, there are layers, but the further away from the core of the story you went, the less it had to do with the facts that actually counted.
That is a benefit of the Patriarchal style of storytelling: we pick a layer or two and go with the stream. We can examine a single layer and even its interactions with another one.
But the Matriarchal is all about the interaction of layers. We can explore several storylines so we can see a deeper interaction. Consequences of past actions is critical. We can have two intersecting stories: one of an orphan who inadvertently learns that pity and sheltering bring fringe benefits because those well-meaning adults are doing their best to guide him, and another where we can witness the future actions where the on earth-victim takes one step too far as he refuses to change his mindset to the detriment of others.
Our perceptions become more fluid with the Matriarchal, and it is not all about slapping a single label on someone and then clinging on to it right or wrong. In one lawyer the character is a villain, but in another, he is a victim. They are not mutually exclusive. How that downfall happened is fodder for the author, meaning a single life can be seen from multiple angles. Can he redeem his villainous ways? It is subject to traveling through another layer, but we learn to appreciate characters when they shine and when they falter. We do not use fortresses when looking at characters through a critical lens: we are looking to understand the layers of being human. There are highs and there are lows, and we don’t gloss over one at the expense of the other: we weigh them both and contemplate.
With the Matriarchal, we can examine why people cannot accept painful truths about their inner circle. We can also examine why people cannot understand an opponent is not a villain or enemy by default. We can go to the very atom of humanity and and explore the inner universe we call our hearts and souls. It is not about making judgements, a pecking order,or about putting a shiny spin on rot.
It is about learning to make maps of our emotions and our thinking.
Who would do such a thing? What is their motive? When do they do it? Where do they take that turn? Why do they do it? How do they talk themselves into it?
The it be the rescue a family from a burning house or setting of the blaze. It is the gathering of layers, which is the Matriarchal’s domain, and it allows authors unprecedented freedom to explore the most enigmatic of emotions in new and unpredictable ways.