The Pointless Story: Direct Your Tale

 

Standard left hand draft course

Image via Wikipedia

 

Is any story ever pointless? Yes, and no. Every story has at least one point, but too often we include stories in our writing that leave the reader wondering which point we were actually trying to make and if we couldn’t have just told them more simply.

You don’t want your reader wondering why you included  your story, or whether you were illustrating your motivation or your opponent’s misfortune. There are two basic ways to direct your tale: either tell your reader up front what you’re illustrating, or create a tale with a structure that directs your readers’ attention to the point you want them to find. Ideally, do both.

For most of us, we’re making a specific point, or maybe two, with a given story. Maybe the story is the entire piece, or perhaps the story is part of an essay, supporting one of the premises. Either way, which details remain and what order and language they wear is determined by the point the writer means to create.

In order to direct a seemingly meandering, rambling or otherwise point-seeking story, write it however it comes out at first. Often, the first telling is chronological. That’s fine, however it comes out. When you return a few days, or even hours, later, underline possible themes, important words, images and feelings. Then, practice pruning: delete anything not related to the major theme you picked. It’s okay if it becomes smaller and smaller, the material you’re editing out isn’t disappearing into some inescapable void. This part is just to find the center of your story, the fine nub you’ll then embellish with selected details.

The crux of this method is choice. The first draft allows you to get all the moving parts out onto the table. The next step is to put aside the gear that’s the exact perfect size to turn all the other cogs, and then add the cogs back in sparingly and artfully, in a way that illuminates the working of the tale.

Next time: Structure and Function – How to Create Maximum Impact with the Fewest Moving Parts

Do you write like you speak?

 

New Orleans: Sign on tire shop on St. Claude A...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Unless you’re delivering prepared remarks, your spoken communication is best off the cuff and a little informal. The intimate quality created by your small pauses, changes in direction or slang can cement the relationship and deepen the communication.

Aside: unless you’re using slang words like “pimpin’,” “gansta,” and “beatch.” None of these are appropriate unless you’re very familiar, or actually are a pimp, gangter or looking for a beatch. I’m not judging, but this will limit your audience and appeal.

Do pay attention, though, because if you’re like 75% of the people’s whose written communication I read, you’ll write just like you talk. The most unfortunate part of this is that over and above the pauses, slang and mid-sentence revisions which add value to in person communication, conversational speech often rambles. And even pimps, gangsters and beatches know that rambling cuts down on business.

Rambling is a sign of either disrespect or lack of expertise. Either you’re taking a circuitous route because you haven’t thought  it through yet, or because you really don’t think your reader will notice and you’re stringing them along.

Rambling as a result of unpreparedness is easy to fix: it’s called a first draft. One reason you might want a Writing Coach is to have someone read your first draft and give you ideas on what you really meant. If you have infinite time at your disposal, you won’t need someone with professional experience at sighting and unearthing your point and the best way to show it off, because the draft and sit process will work in your favor. You’ll come back two weeks later with an epiphany, and give it another go.

However, if you’re like most people, you’re writing with a purpose and perhaps even a deadline. And even if it’s just for yourself, cutting through our own shenanigans can be challenging for the most self-aware.

Rambling as a result of disrespect is both more difficult to fix, and really just a complicated form of unpreparedness – which is why you should want to fix it. The reason it’s difficult to fix is the conviction that leading the reader on is an effective sales technique. The problem with this conviction is that by underestimating your reader, you’re short selling your self or your product. If you have something of value get to it without repeating scintillating phrases. Your reader will see the value with clearer eyes, more grateful for the straightforward delivery.

Rambling takes three forms: the pointless story, the repeated lead, and the disconnected dots. Stay tuned in next week’s blogs for specifics on how to take your writing to the next level, when one of these is your obstacle.

Your Message

 

The Columns at the University of Missouri

Image by dj @ oxherder arts via Flickr

 

Passionate about you finding your message, your voice and your best representation.

Experienced in editing and formatting.

Brilliant at showing you the hidden genius inside your writing.

The key is to find the form in your content, make it explicit, wend it elegantly, reveal your message.

I can help you. I learned the craft of coaching writing at Mizzou’s Camping Writing Program, an innovative cutting edge program in the 1990′s  where we helped students to respond to, and teachers  create, entire classes structured around inspiring writing assignments.  I assisted Dr. John Kultgen in the editing of his book on the Morality of Nuclear Deterrence, and assisted him in teaching Ancient Western Philosophy and Existentialism while in the PhD program at University of Missouri at Columbia. I have taught or assisted in Writing Intensive courses on Ancient Western Philosophy and Logic.

I used to keep one book handy above my desk: Hemingway’s A Movable Feast. It was the perfect antidote to the rambling, laconic styles of the philosophers I studied, and contained the only writing instruction I ever found helpful: “Write one true thing.”

Writing has been my lifeblood since I first got my chubby little hand around a big fat pencil and scratched on that Big Chief writing pad. You can peruse my current writing at yogaeveryday.wordpress.com or alignmentyoganm.wordpress.com.

I look forward to working with you and showing you the GENIUS in your writing!

Contact: alignmentyoganm at gmail or 505-506-0136