A Story Challenge — More Meaning with Fewer Words

June 10, 2011 at 8:37 pm 1 comment

A written story I submitted to 2nd Story (a Chicago group that performs in a wine bar — stories are vetted by folks who appear to be involved in Columbia College’s Creative Writing dept — and stories are half read/half told — no competition involved — they want the story their audience hears to bring out a 2nd story, the one they tell) has been accepted for audition.

They have a ‘style’ they like — very scene driven and LOTS of dialogue and must be personal.
AND 10 minute max. Period.
So my homework this week has been to tweak it according to some suggestions they made and to make sure it was within the time limit.
It’s one of my best stories (IMHO) and audiences like it and I’ve considered it ‘done’ for a long time. But ……..
I’ve been winnowing away, working down from 13 minutes, 38 seconds.
Every thought, word, phrase, word combination, and placement of all of them has been evaluated and reevaluated over and over again. I knew I needed to go from 7 pages (12 point font, double spaced) to less than 5 full pages.
Well, I did it! I’m down to 8 minutes, 50 seconds. And you know what, the story didn’t suffer at all. It is better.
And what a great exercise.
I’ve done it before when submitting picture book manuscripts of stories for magazines that have a word count limit. I’d just forgotten how much fun and how totally interesting it can be.
Maybe most of you do this most of the time. I’ll admit I don’t spend so much time with every story trying to make it shorter and shorter and shorter still. After a recent storytelling performance where I was in the audience, I was wishing a couple of the tellers had. But, of course, that would never apply to me.
Well, I’m willing to publicly admit now that I’m pretty sure it does.
So, here’s my challenge. Take out your favorite story and give yourself a challenge. Cut it by 3 minutes or X number of words or X number of pages.
Consider everything. Get rid of your ‘little darlings’. Throw away what you think is just too cute and everyone ‘must’ hear or their lives won’t be complete.
Delete, delete, delete and still maintain the essence of the story.
You’ll grow with the experience.
Your story will be better.
And your listeners will be glad you did.
Anyone want to join me in the challenge? I’ll show you my before and after if you’ll show me your’s.

Entry filed under: Just Do It -- Stories from the Field, Living Out Loud, Noodling Around -- New Stories, Steering the Craft_Writing Exercises.

Here Women Talk Radio A Story Challenge — More Meaning with Fewer Words — ‘Before’

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Limor Shiponi  |  June 11, 2011 at 2:47 am

    Well Sue, although I stand for keeping stories tight (not necessarily short) I refrain from writing them down. It changes their ‘telling’ nature into ‘written’ too often. Molding the story to a tighter form in front of an audience works better for me; if something is out of place, too short, too long, too explanatory etc. I can sense it from the audience pretty fast.


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