Story Telling At Its Finest…. by Nancy Brophy
As writers we are observers of the human experience. Last week I attended a conference where I heard one man’s experience.
The man telling the story was forty, a former athlete, nice looking, smart and funny. He’d been raised by a single mother. In his life he’d been successful in some careers and not in others, but finally had found true success in the past few years and was now making over one million dollars a year. The portion that fascinated me was how his life had changed.
He was proud of the fact he was able to send his nine-year-old son to some sports camp that cost $5000 a week. And the kid, who loved sports, was excited to go. Not terribly long ago, his son along with his best friend approached the father. It was the best friend who had a question. Both boys stood there, with the man’s son urging the other boy to speak. The father knew this was important so he waited patiently until the boy managed to get the words out.
The kids wanted to go to the sports camp together. The father hesitated unsure of his role and eventually said. “I’ll give the camp information to your parents.”
The boy shook his head. “I’ve already given it to them. They said they couldn’t afford it. I was hoping you would pay for me.”
The father was fond of his son’s friend, but even so, he said no. It wasn’t due to the amount of money. The money probably wouldn’t have meant anything to him. But later he told his own son that his friend had two parents who had to make their own decisions raising their child.
The ending of this story surprised me. As he began I thought this would be another “look how fabulous I am now that I have money” epistles. Believe me I’ve heard lots of these stories. Isn’t this the American dream?
Over the past week I’ve thought about this story a lot. How would I have handled it? The generous instinct would be to say sure, but actually I thought the man handled the situation with more grace and dignity than I would have managed. Plus he made the right decision. But it took me a long time to reach this conclusion.
We don’t know the other parent’s intention. What if it had been to teach their son the value of money? Furthermore, we don’t know if money was the actual problem. Charity, even needed, does not sit well with all.
I met for dinner with Authors Susan Lute and Kim Wollenburg, w/a Cassiel Knight a couple of nights ago and told them I planned to blog about this story. Kim asked, “how does it pertain to writing?”
As humans we have told stories, both written and oral for thousands of years. Behind every good story is a twist that makes the listener/reader pause. This story stayed with me because of the unexpected conclusion.
Reader’s inhale one story after another and toss each book aside. Nothing wrong with the writing, but the story lacked something. As evidenced by a week later when the reader can’t recall a single detail that made that story stand out – the twist that stays in the mind.
Uniqueness is what breaks us out of the mid-list and makes the author’s skill memorable. This is what we are all trying to achieve and why our education is never finished.
And this is why I write.