I just listened to NPR’s Talk of the Nation and Neal Conan was talking to Dave Barry about his new book, and also about his traditional list of ridiculous Christmas gifts. I’ve always enjoyed the off the wall humor that Dave Barry epitomizes. It’s that way of looking at the common place, the every day and seeing within it the totally wacky. I know when I write I find that to look at the humor in something can make for a good story to tell at parties.
Stretching the truth in a story is the old tale of how big the fish really was. We’ve all heard those tales that we know have to be not true… really, they can’t be, right? That’s where the fun lies in telling and retelling those stories. Within each tale is just a morsel of truth that can make you question your own reality sometimes.
So what makes those stories so much fun to listen too - and for those of us who spin them so much fun to create, and recreate over and over? For those of us who create the fine tuning of a good story hangs on the response of our listeners. Often time I’ll write a story and if the response is half-hearted I know something isn’t conveyed quite right. I have this skewed view of the world and, “of course it’s humorous, they just don’t get it!” So where do I head for researching what needs work? To my three sons, (No, not the TV program.) who are a fountain of wisdom for why a story might not be working.
An example would be a story I recently wrote about a plumbing fiasco in our home. My youngest son reminded me that I know nothing about plumbing when he said, “Um, mom what exactly stopped the drain?” I had spent 30 minutes deciding what to call that thingy in our tub that moves up and down, as well as a stopper that holds the water in the tub, or drains it. I’ve even asked the plumber who at the time had his head down in my plumbing trying to liberate the drain pipe to make repairs that were needed. Sadly, he wasn’t sure what it was called, or if it even had a name.
We all have that moment of excitement when we’re understood. But more often than not we see and hear the story totally different that the rest of the world does. And many don’t see the same humor in a given situation. I guess you could say that it takes a great deal of practice to get the meaning across to any audience. But when you do it is sweet! There is such a feeling of exhilaration when your audience understands and gets the point of the story you’re telling.