Making a long story short is not at all like making a short story long.
Adding landscape gives a story a place to be, adding weather tells explains how we dressed and impacts what we did. More detailed description shows breadth of viewpoint without regard to depth of the story …
Shortening a long story, on the other hand, challenges us to decide what to leave out – which parts won’t matter to the reader in order to grasp the story.
Case in point, Ernest Hemingway’s six word novel: Baby shoes for sale, never used.
In all communication, one way or another we ask people to tell us about themselves. Not because we want to know everything, or most recent or most important; we want to know what will matter most or contribute most to our knowing them, informing our understanding of the story they’ll tell ...
Turn that table.
Next time someone asks, your challenge is what to choose, what to leave out. Start close to now, or begin your story long ago and work forward. Choose carefully. Outcomes vary widely depending on your approach.
We do this all the time, don’t we – in our conversations, interviews and in our presentations – we leave out so much deeply important detail. We use visual aids, bullet points and headlines, we use PowerPoint slides and sound effects to get the audience right where we want them: edge of their seats, whet their appetite for more of whatever woo we are pitching.
I’m wrestling with these issues for a story I am writing – I want to write it the way I would tell it out loud; more complicated than answering, “where should I begin?”, more one of what I want to leave the reader/listener with. Do I want to tell a fantastic story, or truth, or both? I can sort that out when telling a true story – it’s easy; tell the truth well, do it by telling it in a fabulous way. The trouble with fiction is the whole story is not true, but the writer wants the reader to experience the story as if it is true. What to leave in, what to leave out, sequence of events and how to tell it become a creative joy/nightmare ….
My story begins August 7th.
Not the writing or the telling of it.
This story, my story, actually begins that way, that day – not so far away, but quite a long time ago.
P.S.: yes, if you guessed that today is my birthday, it is. Also, it’s Professional Speakers Day today …