Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More on Cooking up a Story...


We spend a lot of time helping students find rich details to add to their writing. Over and over we emphasize how the five sense can be used to draw the reader in to the world and experience of the writer or storyteller. Rarely does it happen that a young elementary student has too much detail. But it does occur in upper grades and in the story world too. In these cases an exercise that sought to encourage richness is embarrassed by gluttony. The "riches" of an overly detailed sensory experience can crush a plot and settings or characters too larded over in detail can cause the story to be lost.

When this happens I realize I need to mention that brainstorming and free writing in our journals are like shopping is to cooking. Not everything we bring home from the market or in from the garden will go into a meal. While the poisonous green leaves of a tomato are necessary to create a red luscious fruit, we will not add in any of the green plant of the tomato to our finished dish.

So it is with stories. There are many supporting details that connect and are essential to the best details for your story. As essential as these supporting details are, they must be left out for the story to be edible or listenable.

Somedays I fervently wish fellow storytellers would pay attention to this. Brevity is the soul of wit. And it takes time and attention. Or, as Blaise Pascal once said, "I have made this [letter] longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter."
French mathematician, Blaise Pascal, "Lettres provinciales", 1657