Everyday Stories

Ryan Vaarsi

 

The secretary where I used to work thought I was the most entertaining person in the office. One day, she told me that she was amazed at how many stories I had “for a person my age.”

To be fair, that particular weekend I shattered a mug by pouring tea into it (it just broke, I swear. I wasn’t even touching it) and went house hunting and managed to find the most incredibly terrible houses on the market (this one place… it was from 1840 and had a tin ceiling that had sagged so much the blades of the ceiling fan were literally at my eye level). So, I guess I made it sound like I have an interesting life.

But more stories than other people? That just didn’t seem right to me. Surely wacky stuff happens to everyone pretty evenly. Maybe other people just let the wacky stuff pass by unremarked upon.

Raw story material happens to us all the time. Everything we do or see, everything that happens… anything can be fascinating with the right light from the right angle. As writers, our job is to collect this raw material and spin it into something wonderful.

I’m always narrating a story in my head. Have been since I was a little girl. My mother will tell anyone who’ll listen about how we would arrive somewhere, she’d let me out of the car, and I’d walk just far enough to feel like everyone couldn’t hear me (of course they still could). Then, the story would start. And it would pour out of me for hours, occasionally repeating, until I was exhausted and wanted to go home.

As an adult, I have learned to tell the story without speaking it aloud. But whenever something happens to me or around me, I always imagine how I would tell people about it. I turn the story over a couple of times until I get bored of polishing it. Then I leave it in my memory banks until I have to make small talk.

But these everyday stories, they aren’t just good for small talk. They’re real stories, and they deserve to be told.

So try this: The next time something even slightly unusual happens to you, turn it into a story. You may be surprised by how great it is.

3 Comments

  1. It’s really quite fascinating how quickly I am told “I don’t know how your brain works that way.” when I am, for instance, fixing a computer and start narrating it… “It was a cold day when I got the call. 4am, and I was already being asked to fix something for my family. It’s always… difficult… to make that beat up old computer work like new again but today I could say with confidence that I was glad it was the compy that broke and not… oh… the furnace? the water heater?”
    It’s an exercise in telling a story, not in having an interesting story to tell, and it is one that should be practiced as often as possible.

  2. I completely agree, Bob. The running narration is such a good exercise. It comes naturally to me, so I have a hard time imagining life without it. I would imagine that it could be developed with practice. Do you think so?

  3. I’d say everyone has it in them. It can at times be as much an exercise in not caring what others think of your take on the world as an exercise in telling the story and that first part can be a very hard thing to learn… it also helps to have plenty of other material at the ready to weave into whatever mundane activity you’re talking about…

    Best advice? Practice. If your friend is moving and halfway convinced her new place has to be haunted at the price she’s paying, play it up, make up a story about the racist murder-cult that lived there and worshiped the washer-dryer gods, then vanished to Venezuela for no good reason. Never pass up an opportunity to tell a story, especially to your friends. Good friends won’t just say “Oh… it’s nice…” if you need to work on yer skills… but they will help you, give you advice, if you ask.

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