Snapshots and truth: what makes a story

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

Most of what I write is true. But ‘Truth’ itself is much more slippery. Truth with a capital T can never come from the mouth of a single person, and it never comes in the form of a story, because the act of telling a story involves shaping and curating truth: picking which bits stay in and which bits get cut. What makes a story, when it comes to non-fiction, isn’t Truth but perspective.

Even something simple like adjective choice or tone can make a world of difference to the plot that you’re weaving. Consider this:

He fucked me hungrily.


He was hungry for it, so I fucked him.

The switch makes a lot of difference, I think. As does the adjective. He could have fucked hungrily, greedily, eagerly. With passion or with longing or with a thirst that felt unquenchable. Each one might be true, but a different perspective on the truth – evoking different emotions or tones. As the perspective is immediately different when you switch out ‘he fucked’ for ‘I fucked him.’ And the story that these things capture is only one of many.

The man in question might actually consider that he fucked me brusquely. Functionally, lazily, or in a businesslike manner – you’d only really know if you asked him too. He might have fucked me out of politeness, because I was horny and he didn’t want me to go home unhappy. He may have fucked me because he was itching to get to my heart, and he knew that my cunt was the quickest way in. He might not have fucked me at all: instead we made sweet love.

Lol joke.

Sorry, it felt like it was getting too serious. But talking of ‘serious’…

The break-up diaries

I’m gathering the posts I write about the break-up into one tag entitled ‘break-up diaries‘, for the simple reason that sometimes people like to have backstory. I’m always torn between how much I should reference the break-up, and how much I should just draft and then delete – ripping pages out of my emo diary and burning them to exorcise heartbroken ghosts. There are plenty in draft that I’ve not yet published, some of which will languish there forever. They’re snapshots in time, and that time has now passed, and I’ve decided those feelings aren’t suitable for public consumption.

But my job involves a lot of public consumption. I rip my heart out through my cunt and smear it all over the internet, and it’s often the bloodiest smears that get the most clicks. There’s value in heartbreak and pain, as there’s value in spitroasts and threesomes and blind-testing a collection of wank sheaths to see which one feels best on a partner’s dick. You might think it’s narcissistic to believe people give a shit about my feelings, but Google Analytics disagrees, and this is my job. Besides, I’ve got some pretty hefty post-break-up bills to pay.

Misery and truth

When I’m writing the sad ones, I’m hyper-aware of the fact that what I’m doing is spinning entertainment out of misery, and whenever you turn something into entertainment, you always take a step away from truth. When I wrote my first book, I was encouraged to add in certain details about aspects of my life that I’d never told the blog or shuffle timelines slightly to make the story arc work better. Turn up the sadness on this, or muffle the intensity of that, because that would make the plot flow. In books it’s usually for narrative arc and plot: on the blog it’s very different.

I don’t expect you to follow the plot over here. I need each post to stand alone, without the need for tonnes of backstory. But because of that what you get is snapshots: slices of emotion, captured in a moment in time. Emotions which may well have faded by the time you read, or been usurped by others. You can read about me finding love on the same day as you see how I lost it. See me swearing never to fuck my ex-boyfriend on the same day you read how I (obviously, inevitably) did. It doesn’t half make things awkward when I’m shagging someone new, I’ll tell you that. But I’ll also tell you what I try to explain to them: this isn’t all of me. If you want the unfiltered, full-on, makes-for-a-shit-blog-post story, ask me – the person, not the blog.

You know I’m never going to tell you the whole truth, because I don’t have access to the whole truth myself. I can only give you my perspective, and even then I’m heavily editing to make sure I’m always being kind. The upshot of this is that the snapshots you see will always skew towards wistful nostalgia, showing you a rose-tinted view of the way things are, and were.

Each post is true, but it’s also just a snapshot. Emotions which I want to capture because they feel intense and real, but which my rational self will dismiss later as whining or self-pity or too narrow a view on what’s happening. Trying to judge a situation by what I write here on the blog is like trying to get a feel for someone’s holiday from a single photo posted on Facebook. Sure, they’re eating ice-creams or pitching a tent or dancing in a forest, but the rest of it might have been a narratively-messy mix of road trips, arguments and drizzle. Or they might post a picture of the drizzle with a sadface, and you’ll never know that when the rain stopped, the sun burst through, and they went hiking in muddy boots and fucked up a mountain under a rainbow.

What makes a story?

I can’t tell you what makes for a good or bad story: there are as many kinds of story as there are people who tell them, and many many storytellers a million times better than me. But what makes my stories, here on the blog, are snapshots of feelings at a single moment in time. An emotion, captured at the point when I felt it most intensely, hauled from my chest and splattered onto the page, tuned to try and make you feel that same feeling too: in your heart or your cunt or wherever else you tend to feel stuff. A snapshot preserved as if it’s truth, when really it’s only perspective: what the world looked like through my eyes, in the moment before I had a chance to change my mind.

The more stories I write, the less I believe they are Truth with a capital T. The more words I choose the more conscious I am of the adjectives and nouns I left behind. The more intense each snapshot I capture, the stronger the feeling that I’m lying by omission: never telling you the stuff outside the frame. And above all – above all – I understand how the very act of telling stories changes my own perspective. That writing things down doesn’t just capture them, it helps me process them: shifting and assessing my emotions and beliefs as I note down this tone or that feeling. Gradually becoming someone different as I spit the story out, and realise there were infinite ways that I could have told it differently, and therefore infinite different people I could have become in the telling.

I’m aware that the person I’m becoming here, on the blog, is a little bit skewed right now: she’s writing about a break-up as if it was just this big sad thing that sort of… happened out of nowhere. It’s OK to admit here that I’m sad and I miss him, but there are lots of other feelings that I don’t really want you to know. This has always been the case. There are many stories I have never told the blog, and many feelings I’ve not wanted to snapshot and share on these pages, it’s just much more obvious now because there’s a huge gap in the story during these months when I’m trying my best to (kindly and carefully and gradually) write him out of it.

When I first started writing, I think I (arrogantly, foolishly) believed what I was telling you was the Truth. But it’s never the whole truth, and rarely even most of it. As a non-fiction writer, I don’t think there’s ever a ‘whole truth’ that your one perspective can show, but there are many very real feelings you can capture if you’re happy to deal in snapshots.



I wrote a version of this post back in 2015, when I got a lot of comments from people asking me how much of what I write is true. I thought I could probably give a better answer in 2020 than I did five years ago. Although I’ll let you judge if it’s actually better or just a lot more up-my-own-arse. It was an excellent excuse to reuse this amazing Chainbear image though, which first appeared on the blog way back in 2014, on a post about the female gaze.

And if you do like the wanky introspective shit (Google Analytics tells me you lot are few and far between) you might also enjoy the kind of bollocks I spout in my Patreon updates, and if you join me before December 1st I’ll send you a Christmas card and sweary stickers. Like a shit X-rated Santa. 


  • Thomas Cameron says:

    Intensity grows as field of vision narrows; yes.

    Your emotional veracity is one reason we all show up, and being also a narrative nerd, O for one always get a lot from your metaposts.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ah thank you Thomas! Also YES to ‘intensity grows as field of vision narrows’ – that is a great and v succinct way of putting it!

  • Quinn Rhodes says:

    Just commenting to say that I fucking LOVE the meta-blogging posts and your “wanky introspective shit” – though I realise that is because I read them with my sex-blogging head as much as my fanboy heart, wanting to understand how you do what you do so I can learn from it. I love the line “I rip my heart out through my cunt and smear it all over the internet, and it’s often the bloodiest smears that get the most clicks” so much, and I now have so much to think about re: how writing about a thing can change how you think about a thing? It’s like in quantum theory, where by the act of watching a particle, the observer can change the observed behaviour of a particle. (I think – there’s a chance I totally fucked up that explanation.)

    • Girl on the net says:

      Thank you Quinn! <3 They're often the ones I'm most worried about because they do end up getting a bit wanky. But then I guess it's just a different kind of masturbation and I enjoy ALL forms of it =) And YES I know what you mean about particle observation - definitely a good analogy!

  • oxyfromsg says:

    There is nothing wanky in explaining and showing how you write, why you write and what you write.
    As for the truth, it shifts from moment to moment, person to person, all you can offer us a snapshot taken in the time you write, by the time you press publish it no doubt has changed.
    But we dont come for the truth, we come for your telling of it.

  • Mosscat says:

    Keep telling the stories, please. Truth (however defined) is dependent on so many things, not the least of which is perspective of the story teller, the reader or listener, the time and place and oh so many other things. You’re an expert story teller and I keep coming back for more, because you make me feel. That’s good, y’know!!

  • Faustian says:

    I just like when girls cry.

    In all seriousness even the self-defined rational ones amongst us are still the emotional creatures we are. Even a factually inaccurate description of what actually happened conveys a tangible truth. One about you. The arc you’re creating, or another narrative you’re trying to re-enforce say things about you that I, and many of your readers no doubt, want to read about.
    I read for the person behind the stories – and while I know that is a heavy edit there are still glimpses of you that I enjoy, like one of those frosted shower screens (you’ve got a shower story I can link here right? ;)/). You often list your self-perceived flaws, take care to portray even anonymous characters in a positive light and do list your deepest needs and desires. That in and of itself says things about you. Hell, if I had a blog it would mostly be about everyone else’s flaws and how the sun shines out my arse. It wouldn’t be as nearly as well read as yours.

  • David says:

    I’m here (and have been for quite a while now) to read your stories. They make me smile, they make me horny and some make me cry. But I like them all even if I don’t comment much.
    It’s nice seeing another persons journey through life, not matter how much that person feels it’s viewed from only one angle, because that’s all anybody can do.
    As a photographer I sometimes don’t take a picture of the awesome vista before me because I know I cannot do it justice. No matter how much of the view I get in or how well the colours or light are portrayed it is but a snapshot of the whole view. Truth can be very like this.

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