Given the choice between trivial material brilliantly told versus profound material badly told, an audience will always choose the trivial told beautifully — Robert McKee
If there's one thing I hear the most when people hear that I'm a story coach it's there's no way I could write a book...my life isn't that interesting.
Well, yeah. Especially if you're comparing your story to all of the others being told.
Here’s the thing. So many of us refrain from sharing the every day because we feel it’s boring. Who wants to read about our family road trips and what we perceive as monotony? We don't even try, because we haven't lived the near death experiences. Or we haven't traveled the world. Or we haven't gone through tremendous road blocks to get where we are today.
What this creates is over-saturation of amazing-epic-adventures that aren’t really based in reality.
So you have the numerous stories of traveling the world and snapping pictures of obscure places and writing about the mis-adventures of riding tuk-tuks across the canyon, while the rest of us deal with budgets and groceries and schedules and soccer practice. You have the memoirs of people who blaze a trail all by themselves or put in 80 hour weeks teaching students in a low-income area, while the rest of us pour everything we can into a classroom with just enough resources, just enough success, and just enough routine to make us feel average.
We wonder where our story fits within a genre that only leaves room for extravagance.
But there’s a secret to writing: any story based in every-day moments can be written poetically.
This isn’t manipulation. It’s good storytelling.
Like the moments my husband makes me laugh so hard I cry, or the times I embarrass myself in public, or the days I spend watching rain fall from my window. If I tell the story well, anything can be used.
Any moment can feel brilliant, just like any adventure can sound boring.
It’s how you tell the story.
So how do you avoid sharing a story that falls flat?
- SLOW DOWN
Part of writing is capturing a moment. Refuse the impulse of blazing through what happened. Think about the structure: does what you're writing have a beginning, middle, and end? It’s easy to approach storytelling thinking that all you need to do is throw words down and walk away. Take a breath. Then, take another one. Close your eyes and move through the story as if you’re experiencing it all over again.
- SHOW, DON’T TELL
Maybe you heard your English teacher say this in school. Basically, this means adding as much specificity as possible. Instead of, “OMG this book was so incredible because these characters blew my mind and isn't the cover gorgeous?!” show us how incredible the book was — be willing to dig your heels in a little bit to make sure your reader understands. When you slow down, it's easy to show us. Take a breath. It was the perfect day for a storm, sure. But why? Did the humidity fall on your skin like a wool blanket? Did the perspiration pop on your forehead only minutes after going outside? Were the clouds billowing on top of each other, darkening by the minute? Take us there. Remember the senses: what you see, what you feel, what you hear, what you smell, what you taste.
Let us feel it too.
- BE CREATIVE
Anyone call tell us about watching the groom’s face light up when he saw his bride for the first time, but what about capturing how the best man was whispering jokes under his breath or how the bride’s aunt burst into the dressing room seconds before the wedding began? What about a bridesmaid managing to help sew the zipper back into the maid of honor's dress without the bride ever finding out about the small tragedy?
There are the obvious moments we immediately move toward when we tell a story. These still move the plot forward, but in a predictable way. Instead, reach for the hidden narratives we don’t often see. Not only does this engage the reader, it also adds depth to our characters and plot. We no longer reach for tropes or stereotypes. Our story becomes layered.
Sabrina Ward Harrison has said before that we need more stories of the every day — of people sharing what it really looks like to live this life. Normal is relative, right? So what you perceive as mundane may appear magical to someone else.
The stories we know and love, the ones filled with adventure and narrow escape and unbelievable moments, those are great. They're inspirational. We read those stories and think, "that's amazing, but it will never be me."
You can live a good story, a beautiful story, that is worthy of sharing. You can experience adventure that's breathtaking and full of moments people will want to know. Every single moment of our life has the capacity to bring magic and wonder — it's just a matter or whether or not we're willing to see it. Whether we're willing to share it.
Thoughts to consider:
1. How are you buying into the belief that your story doesn't matter?
2. If you are currently in the middle of a manuscript, how can you slow down your descriptions? What are ways in which you can elevate the creativity of how you tell the story?
3. Think of a moment that felt mundane while you lived it, but looking back you realize its importance. Write about it using the tips in this post. Share it if you're brave. (I know you are).
Grab My New Book!
This book is for the creative who knows you have a story to tell but you have no idea where to start.
Let me help you: you don't have to wait for the gatekeepers anymore.
The time for your book is now. There is no excuse. You know this — you feel it in your bones. That's what this book is for — that's why I wrote it.
Ready to begin?
Find it here on Amazon.