Stories: Trimming the Fat

Sometimes, telling a good story isn’t only a matter of adding ingredients together, but rather, it means understanding which ones need to be left out (relatively speaking, I’m notorious for saying too much). It’s unfortunate, how many small details and other pieces I remove from my writing in order to keep everything simple. The stuff I genuinely lament over is typically funny, or at least it is when you have an inane sense of humor like mine.

Donald Miller and some other writers have made note of the connection between the stories we write and live: fiction and reality have the same ingredients. We have our plot, setting, characters, protagonists and antagonists, conflict, and of course, denouement. The most obvious difference is that writers can pull whatever they choose into the worlds they create, whereas reality forces us to work with what we have- it’s a little more confining. In other words, pointing a fancy stick at something and yelling expecto patronus does nothing for me, no matter how happy my thoughts are.

I enjoy telling stories, but unless I want to be a giant liar or a thief, I must live them first. I suppose I could also write fiction, but that’s not part of the point. It’s easier to say what detracts from a good story, rather than that which contributes to it, so here’s a list of things that make your life and your story-telling boring.

1- I have a love-hate relationship with sleep. I’m so much more functional and pleasant when I get more than six hours, but adventures expire when I snooze. Consider the books you’ve read and how they’ve treated sleep- I feel like most of them only mention it when it sucks, when there’s a dream that’s meaningful, or if it’s interrupted. Depressed people sleep because they don’t want to do anything else, so perhaps you should knock it out of your life a little and start living a more exciting, less bright-eyed and bushy-tailed life.

2- I think I read somewhere that entertainment is America’s biggest industry. Don’t quote me on that, but if your life was a book, how many hours of television, movies and video games would you have to cut out? I know a few people who’d be removing years from their stories after they made these edits. To be fair, most of them participate in this socially, but still… perhaps you should all go for a walk and hunt for some exciting exploits instead.

3- I’m a gym person, but really, nothing exciting happens there. I get sweaty, might slip off the treadmill if I run on one and typically drop my phone at least once while I’m there. Exercise is making my story a little more boring, so maybe I should cut it out, or change it. I should go running in a bad part of town on a Saturday night or something like that and see what happens.

4- Paying the bills makes for a boring story. Who needs a roof over their head when they can become a tramp and ride the rails all over the United States? My roommate is getting married soon, I think I might sell my crap and do just that. Too bad it’s been done. Maybe I’ll go south and find a nice beach to live on.

5- In exciting books, people are spies or have jobs only so they can quit them. Perhaps getting fired or let go is that pivotal event that pushes them into previously unknown awesomeness. Maybe we should all quit our jobs and see what adventures follow. The last suggestion works well with this one.

6-Relationships, both positive or negative are significant to good stories. The only two tales I’m aware of that have really only one person in them are Cast Away and its predecessor Robinson Crusoe. Tom Hanks had Wilson though and Defoe made the name Friday famous with the character added to his story. So, perhaps those aren’t good examples. We need relationships because we must have people to love and bicker with.

On a more serious note, I would never encourage anyone to lead an irresponsible life, but it is important that we consider how we’re spending our time. When I was in college, I was great about writing more, I never turned the television on and maybe played an hour of video games each month. I can’t say the same about my post-undergrad experience, and I’m kind of ashamed of it. I’m praying for and will hopefully be perpetually on the hunt for adventure because I want to have exciting stories to tell.

If you had to tell your life story right now, would it be boring?

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4 Responses to Stories: Trimming the Fat
  1. amy
    June 15, 2012 | 11:09 AM

    reminds me of a saying I heard once…
    ~sometimes you just need to step outside, get some air, and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be~
    amy recently posted..cborah replied to your post: 6.11.12
    I doubt they were talking about you. They’re good people and…

    • jake
      June 17, 2012 | 9:35 PM

      “…of you you are and who you want to be.”
      I feel like those are both loaded questions and could take far too long to figure out. ;)

      I should be careful about what I write from now on, I don’t want you holding me accountable to any of it, c’mon!

  2. Jason Vana
    June 18, 2012 | 7:20 AM

    There would definitely be chapters that seemed boring, but then I catch these glimpses that my life isn’t as boring as I think it is (living in a small town, I get bored quite a bit). I travel to Europe at least once a year. I’ve spoken in churches across the world. I’ve helped change the lives of young people for 10 years. I’ve hiked up mountains in other countries. I started my own business and my own nonprofit. And I’m contemplating going back to school. My life is fairly interesting. lol
    Jason Vana recently posted..Positioning Favor

    • jake
      June 18, 2012 | 9:52 PM

      Your life would be more interesting if you’d hurry the hell up and move to Boise. Just sayin’. BUT, you have certainly made the effort to get out and do things. It’s nice do to on occasion ;)

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