Monday, November 30, 2020

Leftover Writing Notes

Welcome back from the Thanksgiving break. This is usually the time when we all sit back, live off of leftovers for a few days, and really think seriously about exercising some more (and usually don't). Now, this year things are different. For a lot of people, there are not leftovers and no need to work off all that gravy weight. For some people (including myself), Thanksgiving was nothing more than a quiet day at home. But that doesn't mean there isn't something to feed off of later. I'm talking about finding stories within the events of Thanksgiving.

I always offer a disclaimer about brewing up a story from a day such as Thanksgiving, and this is no different. For any particular holiday, I emphasize the following:

  • The holiday is not the story
  • There are many stories within the holiday

Now you may want to jump up and scream, "Aha! You said you just had a quiet day at home! How can there be a story if you didn't do the holiday stuff?" Well, sit down and let me explain. 

First, as I said in the disclaimer, the holiday is not the story. Writing about what I did and didn't do over the course of last Thursday is not a story, it's a news article (and not front-page material). And to be perfectly clear, I did watch a couple of one-sided football games, which constitutes a Thanksgiving event in my book, and I did eat food. Instead of a nine-course meal, I made a reasonable amount of stir-fry Mongolian beef. So, no, the holiday is not the story. However, I hope that through a few of those strategically placed details, you see where the stories within the holiday may lie.

The news article style of story-writing is rather dry and doesn't actually make for interesting reading because it merely explains what happened. I ate lunch. I watched the game. I wrote. I watched another game. I cooked dinner. Yes, that's a story that tells about my day, and it is as dry as overcooked turkey. Rather, stories come when the writer isolates on one event and explains why that was worth focusing on. 

Look at the Mongolian beef I made for my personal Thanksgiving feast. As odd as that detail seems, that can be a story in itself. The explanation of that choice of a meal - the why in all this - becomes the story. I could write about the one year I was stuck in the city for Thanksgiving without any location to go to. I thought it would be a very sad day, so I went to the only place that was open - Blue Willow on Damen and Chicago (now closed) - and just ordered Mongolian beef. 

During the preparation, I had my own personal realization that the people at Blue Willow were working during this holiday and not complaining about it. To them, their thanks was recognized in a different way, and they did not need to specifically recognize it on the fourth Thursday of November. They prepared my food with a smile, handed me the bag, and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. I went home, enjoyed my food, and thought over just what the holiday meant to different people.

So, as you reflect upon whatever your holiday involved, know that there are a lot of stories to be written about this recent Thanksgiving. Pandemic aside, there is likely a rich harvest of events to be written about, and the holiday is merely the setting - one of the little details while you explain why it was worth writing about.

No comments:

Post a Comment