As some people may know, I am an avid cyclist. I don't go for speed - my bicycle is older than a number of my readers - but rather distance riding. Out where I live there are plenty of cycling paths and country roads to explore, and I can log a lot of miles riding through the vast expanses of nowhere. A fifty-mile ride can give me hours of time to think about stories, writing, the frustrations of the day, or just let my mind release from the mental tethers and meditate on the path before me. The one thing that I have trouble with, however, is explaining this experience in writing.
The real catch in trying to explain to my friends and colleagues about my ride is more than describing local agricultural trends, flora, and fauna. What makes the story interesting is when I target one particular detail about the ride, and expand on all the nuances of just that part. The more refined that detail becomes, the more it can be an opportunity to really draw them into the story.
Let's look at the last ride I took - a thirty-mile round-trip country-road tour that took me to the neighboring state. Now, there was nothing unusual about this particular ride - I had done it a few times already this season. What I wanted to do, however, was see if I could do it while only bringing one little bottle of water for hydration. Definitely an interesting test, and also the hook for the storytelling. At that point, the story becomes a challenge about thirst. The heat, the sweat, they become indicators of my fatigue. The wind blowing against me cools me off but forces me to push harder against the gusts, wearing me down that much faster. Every time I finish a leg of the ride, I consider how much water I have left and how many miles I still have to conquer. Passing over a creek makes me think of my thirst and how refreshing one gulp could be, just like the salty sweat running down my face and onto my lips.
At this point, the story is more than a ride, this is a challenge, and every detail I discuss should appeal to that one theme: Thirst. Are the cornfields important? Not really, unless they wave with the breezes that cool me down and give me a little more life for the next mile. Everything makes the reader relate to me rationing out that bottle of water. That's where it's interesting, and that's where the story lives or dies.
The next time you want to tell a story about something that might seem a little mundane, look for the detail that can be the pivot for the whole story, and swing everything around that. Give an obsessive focus on everything that appeals to that one facet, and watch the story come to life. Even something as boring as cycling.