The Irish tell a good story. And while I’m still sorting out all the good ones I heard while I was on vacation there, here’s a guest post from my friend Billie Brownell.*
Telling A Good Story
Every week when I was growing up, we would visit my grandparents after church to share Sunday dinner and spend Sunday afternoon with them (in our family, dinner was the noontime meal; supper was later). Maybe that’s where I learned to love a good story.
Granddaddy, after finishing his meal (sometimes starting with dessert, if we were having pie), would begin his story by leaning back in his chair and saying, “Well, I was at Mr. Fizer’s store last week, and …” or something similar. We’d all lean forward to hear better and wait for the story to play out. And we’d laugh at the funny parts.
What I learned from him is this: in order to tell a good story (oral or written) it is important to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think my grandfather set the stories up knowing the joke he was going to tell and then constructed his tale around that. I’m not sure it makes much difference if the “story” is fiction or nonfiction—but it’s got to take you somewhere.
So even though there is a distinct difference between something intended to be read or performed (such as a play) and something meant only to be read, it can be helpful to read your story aloud to see if it has clarity and if it flows. You may find you’re not telling your readers much. You may find plot holes, or logic errors. Nonfiction needs a good story too. (Jamie’s note: I read almost all blog posts aloud to the Irishman. They are finished and, I always think, polished—and yet I’m astonished at the obvious edits I uncover during a reading.) No matter what you’re writing, try reading it aloud. Tell it like a good story and see what happens.
Who knows? You might find you have a gift for telling a good story aloud, and we’ll see you at the next National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee!
*Used with permission. An editor at Cool Springs Press, Billie Brownell can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”