There’s a difference between mere talk and telling stories.
Bump into a friend and you’ll hear about the kids, the job, the vacation. . . And while you’re happy for the news, it doesn’t add up to anything momentous or lasting.
A story is much more than these bits and pieces. At its simplest, it’s interesting characters, engaged in a dramatic situation, moving through a chronology, to a resolution. At its core is a big idea. A story to has to make a point. It has to be about something.
Here are some examples of big ideas:
- A character comes of age, and/or embraces a new reality.
- Or has his values tested, and emerges differently for it.
- Or is rescued, or recues someone else.
- Or is punished for his misdeeds in a comeuppance tale.
- Or learns a moral lesson, which changes him.
- Or achieves his heart’s desire.
- Or redeems himself, despite the odds . . .
As you go about your day, as the bustle of the season increases, why not sort through the chit-chat and listen for the stories? Hear any good ones? Consider the big idea at the heart of a story that moved you. Extract this essence; find this core.
And then reflect on the storyteller’s treatment of it. All love stories, for example, or war stories, or come-of-age stories and so on, are not the same. Though the action might follow a similar trajectory of events (boy meets girl, say, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again), the specifics of character, conflict, place, tone, time and other engaging detail are determined on a story by story basis, with the writer in charge.
Have a story you’d like to tell? Begin with the big idea that appeals to you. Think about how you will make it your own. (Is yours a love story between two seals at the Central Park Zoo? Is it a war story that concerns, say, a battle against disease or pollution?) And with these preliminaries fixed, sketch out the trajectory you’ll follow from introduction to conflict to resolution, and then go on and clothe your tale.
Photo Credit: Cassidy Curtis, otherthings