“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951
Telling Stories: Part Two
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word story primarily as a noun: an account of an incident or event; a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a situation in question; an anecdote; a narrative; a legend. There are other definitions of the word story, but I will discuss the first one today.
A story is an account or retelling of an incident or event. If someone says they witnessed an event such as a wedding, they would relate details in order to make the story interesting to the listener. While the statement, “I went to a wedding” is technically a story, it is pretty boring. The person you are telling the story to would want to hear many details. Where was the wedding located? What did the bride’s dress look like? How many attendants did she have, if any? What color were the bridesmaids’ dresses? Was it a religious service or civil service? What religion? What did the groom wear? Did they write their own vows? What about the parents of the couple-did they attend the wedding? If not, why not? Did their relatives and friends show up? And the reception: Where was it located? Did they have a band or a DJ, or no entertainment? What type of food was served? Did they go on a honeymoon? Where? Some of your listeners might want to hear secret details that only a few are aware of, or even gossip about the wedding. Depending on the person who hears about the event, the type, number and details may vary. Someone might want to hear every detail you can remember. Another may want to hear just the main facts. The discussion of the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses could go on as long as the storyteller and listener want to continue it.
You, as the storyteller, might embellish the details without lying. Embellishment means that instead of saying the bridesmaids’ dresses were light blue, you could instead give your opinion or viewpoint about the color. You could say the color reminded you of the old hospital rooms from the 1930s where your aunt used to work as a nurse. You might further add that you will always recall the color from your visits to your elderly great-grandfather who was confined there due to Alzheimer’s.
Another way to spice up your story of the wedding would involve your perception of the people and their actions. Your listener would ask you about how a certain guest acted, or maybe your view of the mother of the groom’s attitude. These perceptions of yours concerning the attitudes and actions of the guests may be desired from the person hearing your story. Maybe they will ask you to give your thoughts on the day. Do you think the couple has a chance for a happy marriage, or do you think the man and woman are too different to have a successful union?
According to what you witnessed at the wedding, you may add to the story by recounting other details that your listener did not ask for. While adding details such as these to your story change it from bland to lively, you are not lying. Lying would be to tell untruths and then present them as true. If you say that the reception was held at the beach, but it really took place in a small town seventy miles away from the water, then you are lying in your story. Saying that the groom’s sister hit the bride is untrue if all that happened was that the sister bumped into the bride in the dressing room. As a storyteller, you want to give an account of an event or incident, whether you simply say the facts or make your story interesting by using details. But in the end, it’s up to you, the writer, to make those decisions. Remember, the writer is always in control and has the power to write an entertaining story.
I will discuss some of the other definitions of the word story in another post.