The prompt this week is about writing for the audience, keeping their experience in mind when sharing your experience in words.
When writing to relate an experience, how do you tell the story? If it happened “this way,” do you have to write it that way or can you be creative with the storytelling process. How do you modify it, how do you adapt the story from reality to storytelling? Does it need to have the ring of truth or be the truth?
It depends. It depends upon your goals as a writer and your audience. What does your audience need to know to make your point? Are you making a point? Are you going for a joke? Are you testifying before the court? Are you teaching them something? What elements do you keep, which do you omit, which do you emphasize, which do you unemphasize?
Everything we do is colored by our experience, then adjusted for our audience. The choices in words, phrasing, and storytelling technique dictates what influences as you tell the story.
In the 1970s, Fuji Film took on its rival Kodak to create a new range of print and slide film. They researched customer’s experiences with film and film processing and found that the main complaint people had when picking up their film after processing was that the colors weren’t as intense. “You should have been there, it was so colorful.” The researchers found that memory intensified over time. Comparing a photograph of a sunset, it would look the same, but in the one to three weeks from taking the picture to having it developed and in their hands, human memory intensified the colors. Fuji amped up the colors in their film to make it match the human memory.
Writers need to do much the same. Intensify the scene and characters to enhance the moment. As author William Faulkner said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
A story too bare may not hold the attention of the reader, but watch out for diluting the story with too many tangents and extraneous details.
From The Riverside Reader by Joseph Trimmer and Maxine Hairston came more information to help with our prompt. In summary, it stated that writers of narrative essays must be concerned about how much they tell their readers. Because an essay is based upon experience, few readers will know the entire backstory by that point in the story, nor should they. Do they need to? How much should they know and when they should know it is a constant struggle for fiction writers.
The ability to identify major and minor details in the writing as critical to the storytelling differentiates from the real life experience. When we experience an event, we have a knack for confusing dates, names, and the sequences of events, and we have the unalterable belief that simply “just because something happened to me, you are going to be fascinated.” This doesn’t always hold true when writing the event. We must pick and choose what we include as well as what we remove. We might play with the chronology of the event, restrict the backstory, change the characters or blend them together, even change the scene to make the reader’s experience a more enjoyable one as well as increase the tension and drama of the story.
According to Writers in the Grove member, Diana Lubarsky, “What is truth? Sometimes you got to make it up.”
The Prompt: Write a Story Twice
The prompt was to write a story twice. Have a different audience in mind for each telling.
Write a “true” story,” something that happened to you. Write it for two different audiences such as a child, grandchild, prissy mother, controlling mother-in-law, students in a class, a newspaper reporter – you choose.
Compare the two. Does the tone of voice change? Do the words change? How?