I love to tell stories. It’s how I teach. Writing a “how-to” book would be dull and boring without some animated illustrations of the points being made…and it would be especially boring as the writer! One of the problems I had during the editing process of “What They See” is that I had too many stories I wanted to share, and cutting them back was a painful and challenging process.
So what is it about storytelling, in any genre, that makes for a compelling read?
I think it’s the reader’s ability to find themselves in the story…to identify with one or more of the characters, and to lose themselves -even for a moment- in the world of another person. Storytelling has been around since the beginning, and long before Johannes Gutenberg invented a way to capture stories en masse.
Good storytelling teaches, inspires, and sometimes even transforms lives.
There is nothing like escaping into a story…sinking in to it so that your own story disappears for a time. That’s what the best books offer…and the best movies too.
But storytelling in a non-fictional, practical guide book is a little different than in a juicy, full-length novel. Storytelling in this instance has to be quick, captivating, succinct and to-the-point. A story needs to be told for a specific purpose, and not just because you want to take a paragraph to describe the rich red rhododendron blossom buzzing with bees outside your office window. Storytelling in non-fiction needs to move through the peripheral details to the nugget of wisdom or moment of illumination in as few words as possible, which for me as a podcaster and preacher, is largely a challenging prospect!
Sexy Voice Girl, (or SVG as I called her in the book), is one such example. I wanted to really give the reader the full experience of what it was like to stand dumbstruck in the middle of a bustling emergency department, staring up at the overhead loudspeaker as this breathy, Marilyn Munro-esque voice announced there was a car in the parking lot with it’s lights on. No one could make that announcement sound as sexy as SVG did. It was both exceedingly odd and strangely intriguing at the same time. SVG didn’t work very often, but when she did, people would stop to listen, bemused looks would come over their faces, eyes would turn to look for other eyes, faces would flush, some eyes would roll, lips would smile and heads would shake. Many took leisurely strolls past Switchboard in the hopes of glimpsing a body that would match the sultry sounds coming across the PA system. I don’t think they ever did. These incongruous, occasional and fleeting moments amidst the chaos of the emergency room remain indelibly in my mind and always make me smile.
I couldn’t tell the story as fully as I wanted to in the space I had in the book, although I believe I made my point.
I suppose as with any story, there is always more that could be said.
Stories are powerful vehicles in any genre, and I thank you sincerely for listening to mine.