It’s funny how as a writer I find myself becoming, at times, a better oral story teller. I just caught myself retelling a small scenario from church to my husband and simplifying some of the details to make a better verbal impact and a greater punchline.Huh. Did I just lie? Did I just go against everything I’ve been taught all my life and tell a Lie?
Interesting. And all the more so because it’s becoming a bit of a habit.
There’s nothing worse than listening to someone tell a story and having them use a lot of “sort-of’s” and “kind-of’s,” or “a little bit’s.” Or describing something as “like a this thing–well, no, maybe it was more like a that–” They try to get the details just so and for many things, like telling how father’s iridectomy went, the details count. After all you don’t want Aunt Bertha passing the story to Uncle Curt and suddenly father’s iridectomy becomes a triple bypass complicated by a plantar’s wart and his body odor and he had an out of body experience in the midst of it.
If your child’s teacher calls to tell you your child spit on the janitor’s head, you better hope she’s not fiddling the truth, when your child only sneezed on the water fountain.
Nooo, we don’t want that sort of false retelling. And when the boss says you’re getting a $10 an hour raise and you open your next paycheck to find a 10 cents a day decrease— well there’s h— oops, certainly something to pay.
So how do we tell a story for the sake of a good story? Cause I know I’m not alone.
Because I’ve caught myself altering the strict truth of story simply for love of telling it well. I doubt I’m the only one. Let’s hope I’m not heading for perdition. Story gets into ones blood. It’s been part of civilization ever since—ever. Like since the first cave-men with no language, spoken or written, played charades to tell each other what happened out in the fields that day. of course they’re gonna swap the details to out-do one another.
What does fiddling the facts comes from? Perhaps some of us get tired of listening to stories from people who have to reclaim every detail, important or not, that slow down the story and cause you to lose interest. The tension is stretched to uselessness by constant correcting themselves or telling too much back-story in a backwards manner, whether it pertains or not.
Or it’s because, as of we writers, the editing of the written word, the maximizing of each phrase to carry the story, the careful choosing of words to say more than they do at face value, has taught us to edit more carefully the spoken story too.
So what if the little boy in church today actually hummed a different tune than the Star Wars Theme song? If not, it was certainly a lot like it and created the same impact–a wave of tittering in the rows nearest him. So later when I told my husband, it would have lost the giggle factor if I’d out loud speculated if that’s what song it really was. The acoustic quality of the tale would have failed entirely, thus vetoing the point of the tale.