Practicing your story

I love to tell stories!  Things that happen to me, things that happen to my friends and family, things that amuse me, and things that come to me in my sleep are all fodder for my stories.  I have a story about room service.  I have all sorts of stories about my travels and adventures.

I was recently at a big event in Orlando where I got certified as a John Maxwell teacher/trainer/coach, and one of the activities was standing up and introducing myself to my table mates in a 5 minute speech.  I had told this story to my family, then to my toastmaster club, and eventually to all of my friends.  I published this story on FaceBook.  I had to tell it that many times to refine it.  I found areas of description that did not advance the story and cut them out.  I found conversations and streamlined them to make them an integral part of the story.  I looked for ways to hold off the end of the story so it would come as a surprise.  I crafted the words for the most impact.  Mark Twain once said, “If it is a ten-minute speech it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it; if it is a half-hour speech it takes me a week; if I can talk as long as I want to it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.”  Once I have my story just the way I like it, I rarely change my delivery.  My choice for this project was “Don’t worry, I’m a Professional!” and it was a humorous look at my adventures at the last Big Event where I broke my hip.  It came in at 4:47 and I got all kinds of good reviews.

You have to listen to where people laugh.  You have to listen to your delivery.  You have to watch the people in your audience to see when you need to slow down or speed up.  Are they getting the point of the story?  This is a 5 minute speech.  A book is a 5 minute speech stretched out to 3-5 days.  Craft each scene carefully–each character, the setting, the dialog.  You cannot be careless lest you run yourself into a rabbit hole you cannot escape.  Write down your inspirations and expand on them.  Write down your stories and then look at them with a critical eye.  Does it conform to your plot?  Does it get a good reaction from the reader?  What do you want to accomplish with this paragraph?

Craft your stories as you would a vase.  Don’t leave anything to chance, and do not assume you can just wing it and get it right.

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