Thing about telling a story is that it had to be interesting for other people. Now, I know this sounds like a simple and stupid thing to say. But it’s easily forgotten. And it’s very easy to get sidetracked in literary affectation or a back story or justifying things about the story within the writing that just trip up the flow. But I’ve discovered a very simple way to work out what works and what doesn’t even before you put pen to paper. A way of honing the story to perfection.
I call this the Anecdote Method.
I’ve been working on my “In Japan” for the last month or so and already I’ve re-written it 3 or 4 times (I can’t even tell which it seems like a blur now). Trying to make the story sit right. So it’s pacey but still even. There’s no lulls or boring bit and no side tracking (I think this is a personality defect in me – I love to go off on tangents – look at me now, I’m doing one by talking about myself).
So, what I’ve been doing before I attempt draft number thirty-seven, is I’ve been thinking of the story as an anecdote. Whenever I’ve had chance to hang out with my friends, I’ve been telling them the story. Just asked them nicely, “Can you do me a favour and have a listen to this idea I’ve got. It would be a massive help. I’m going a bit nuts here.” And each and everyone have said no problem. And then all I’ve done is said, “Right I’m going to tell you my story. See what you think?” The last part is the important part. Because if you don’t include them in the process they feel as though they’re being talked at! Rather than, you need them and there opinion.
And proceed to tell them the story from start to finish.
Now this sounds a little ridiculous. But actually it works. And works well. What I’ve discovered from this method are the following:
- You can tell the parts that are boring your friends (they drift off) – so you either have to spice that up or drop it or rework it.
- You find yourself skipping over unimportant parts – so they can be dropped from the story.
- On subsequent recounting of the story it improves every time – like a good anecdote – it becomes embellished with the extra detail and fun. It becomes a better story.
- You’ll find your friends saying. I don’t understand that. Or why did he/she do that? So you need to add more explanation.
- You’ll end up with a good final story.
The other interesting thing with this is you can end up with valuable feedback about the story itself. Because people like to have an opinion about things especially when you’re sat in front them and you’ve asked them for help. You’ve humbled yourself to their greater opinion – always a good stance. So they’re bound to say something like. I really like the bit about so-and-so. Or that was quite sad. The amazing bit was when.
Another tip for this is actually get Dictaphone App for your phone so you can record the whole thing. So you don’t forget parts of the story.
And if you’re boring the back legs of the listener. You know you have a turkey on your hands. So you’ve saved yourself the time even writing it out. Back to the drawing board with your story. Come up with a new story.
For tens of thousands of years, before the invention of the printing press, this is the way stories were passed around. Just because we have Kindle Publishing doesn’t mean your story is good because it can be published. The story has to be good.