Creativity Story Writing
Charlotte Rains Dixon  

It is Always the Story

Copyspace_space_copy_246205_l Yesterday, I wrote about watching the Winter Olympics and how Bode Miller winning gold inspired thoughts about stepping up to the plate.  

Today the subject is story.

My daughter and I were watching the men's ski cross races on Sunday night.  This is a relatively new sport, and, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe it is the first time in the Olympics.  It doesn't have a lot of stars that we're yet familiar with and so NBC chose to focus on one of the Canadian men.  (I know, shocking–NBC actually featured an athlete who wasn't from the US!  It was because he grew up in Colorado but had a Canadian father.)

So, here's this new sport, which is mildly interesting, and a bunch of guys participating that nobody's ever heard of. I'm  watching with half an eye, catching up on emails and blog comments at the same time.  But then there's a slow moment in the action and NBC decides to run the pre-taped story about said Canadian, whose name is Chris Del Bosco.

And suddenly I'm paying attention.  Because this guy has a story.  From the time he was a wee boy, he showed a talent for skiing and racing.  But then, as a teen, he started drinking and doing drugs.  And suddenly he wasn't winning races anymore.  Pretty soon he wasn't even racing anymore.  This dark period ended with him so wasted one night that he fell into an ice-cold stream and if a passer-by hadn't found him he would have frozen to death.

He's bombed out of any ability to compete here in the states, but through a synchronicity, he heard that the Canadians were looking for guys to ski on the ski cross team.  And suddenly a new career opens up.  He's getting a second chance to do what he loves. 

And I'm rooting for him.  Suddenly, I'm completely and totally paying attention.  The computer is closed and set aside.  My eyes are glued to the TV.  Del Bosco easily qualifies for the finals.  I so desperately want him to win!  Alas, it is not to be.  Though it looks like he is coming from behind to win a medal, on one of the last bumps (jumps? not sure what they are called in this sport) he overestimates and ends up crashing.  

The point is this: I cared about Chris Del Bosco because NBC told me a story about him. Not only that, but the story they told had all the elements of a classic–amazing talent that, lots of conflict, the opportunity for a second chance.  I was right there with him because of it.

The thing I probably suggest the most when reading a client's manuscript is to take out narrative and put in more scene.  Scenes dramatize your writing and make it come alive.  A scene shows us something, instead of telling.  It presents a story. 

We respond to story because it is hard-wired into us.  From the beginning of human time, we've told stories to each other.  And still we do, whether on TV, a movie, or through reading a book.  The power of story is so powerful that it has become a cliche.

But sometimes cliches are good.  Because, ultimately, it always comes down to story.

What about you?  How do you use the power of story?  What have you gleaned from watching the Olympics? Or have you been ignoring them completely?

0 thoughts on “It is Always the Story

  1. Melissa Donovan

    I think story works because it gives the audience a perspective that they can relate to. Tell people there was a devastating earthquake in Haiti and they’ll say “Oh, that’s too bad.” Tell them a story about a child trapped under the rubble for twelve days and they’ll ask, “How can I help?” Story changes everything.

  2. janet

    It’s the Olympics version of Behind the Music. It really is the best way to fill the bazillion minutes between races, whether it be during the Olympics or the Kentucky Derby. It sucks you in. Call it propaganda. Call it hype. I like story.

  3. Charlotte Dixon

    Melissa, So very true–story gives us something we can bond with, a way to identify.

    Janet, I forgot about Behind the Music! And dear lord, some of those races get a bit boring, so thank god for the stories they tell.

  4. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    such a great and true post! I also always think of the Darfur puppy. We need our stories to connect with each other.

  5. Christi

    This post is so true! My husband is a football fanatic so for six months out of the year (apparantly the draft is very important too) he watches games, pre-games, etc…

    For the first few years of our marriage I would walk into a room, see him watching a game, and immediately find something else to do. Nothing bored me more than a game.

    But…then I happened to be nearby when an interview with a player came on and the player talked about all they’d overcome to get to the team, and then it hit me…these players have stories! They have lives! It made me actually care about if that one player won or lost because I had been given a glimpse into their life story.

    Now, I still find something else to do, but it might be in the same room and I definately pay attention when interviews come on :).


  6. Charlotte Dixon

    Amy, well put–stories connect us to each other.

    Christi, love the aha moment when you realized that the football players have lives and stories, too!

  7. Patty - Why Not Start Now?

    Stories are it for me, Charlotte. They make my world go round. And that’s a great line: “sometimes cliches are good.”

  8. Charlotte Dixon

    Patty, I like your line that stories make your world go round. That is great!

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