Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Telling a story

I have a friend who cannot tell a story. I'm not sure if it's her concern for veracity, or if she doesn't fully know the point of her story. For example, let's say she wants to tell me that her coworker Mary told her about a new restaurant.

She'll start out with: "Last Tuesday Mary told me, no wait, Mary doesn't work on Tuesday, maybe it was Monday. No, I wore the pink blouse on Monday, it must have been Wednesday." And we spend 15 minutes figuring out what day of the week Mary told her about the restaurant.

"She went there with her husband and son. No, wait her son is at college. It must have been her daughter, but I thought she was on a class trip." Then we have to spend some time figuring out who was actually there. "It's on Main street just south of the McDonalds, no maybe it's the Burger King." And more time is spent trying to remember the location.

I see this a lot with new writers. They need to tell everyone's story at once. The main character goes to a restaurant and the waitress is crying because her mother/father/boyfriend is sick or has fought with her. and she brings the wrong food or spills a drink. Now this might be information the writer needs, but what has it got to do with the main character's story? Is she/he affected? Does it move the story forward? Does it tie into the plot?

Unfortunately, very often the answer is no. It's just a little tangent story and we never see them again. I've found myself doing it. I get all caught up in the drama of the minute and realize I've built a life for a walk-on role.

Oops.

Well, save that character for her own story and trim it all out. It will make the story cleaner and clearer. Now I need to go check on my own waitresses.

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