When my daughters were young they started a running joke with me. It was because of my tendency to exaggerate in my story telling or explanations. For example, I might be explaining something about sports and say, ‘Joe Blow was the GREATEST catcher who ever lived.’ or if I was talking about history I would say, ‘General YadaYada was the MOST brilliant war tactician ever!’ They started expecting my superlatives and would crack up or roll their eyes when they came. My eldest, Rebekah, was adamant that I see the movie ‘The Big Fish’ when it came out because it was about a father who was a giant story teller, exaggerating the stories to absurd lengths. Now, of course, I NEVER did that. But she thought it would be fun for me to see the movie anyway.. uh huh.
All that is pretty much in good fun – no harm, no foul. There is value in clarifying and refining an experience in story telling so it has more power. But going farther than that, as we have seen in recent years with reporters exaggerating events or authors exaggerating their memoirs, can lead to a real lack of trust and believability on the part of the audience, not to mention a career destruction.
So, crystalize it so it sparkles but don’t forget the story plainly told still needs to be able to grab the reader’s attention. Move too far away from that in your story line and word crafting and you might lose the essence of what makes your story great in the first place.
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman of The Napkin Dad Daily
Quote by William Safire, 1929-2009, American writer, columnist and speechwriter