Saturday, January 2, 2010

How I learned to overtell a story

This is a story of three humans who have affected my life and led all of us here.

My very first class of my very first day at the local community college was -- no surprise -- English 101, Lit & Comp, with a very old, very skinny Jewish woman named Keonig. I adored her. She was brusque and classy and no nonsense. Throw the least ambitious of last years' seniors from the local (read: backwoods) high schools into an early morning English class with a little old Jewish woman and you don't expect greatness. She didn't care what you expected. You were in her classroom, you played by her rules, and you did the work, durnit. She intimidated me, and I adored her.

The first lesson she hammered home was brevity. We didn't write ten page essays; ours were three pages, max. More than three and she stopped reading and your paper was useless. This was a surprisingly difficult lesson. You'd think less is more, yay for less work, but I had stuff to say. Still, an excellent lesson, particularly for a young woman who thinks she has stuff to say. She learns to hold her pretty little tongue and say what needs to be said, no more.

Fast forward -- let's see -- four years and enter a twenty year old Mister. This is a boy who wants you to tell him directly what you're thinking, no pussy-footing around a thing, and he wants the details, not just the main point. Where were you? Who with? What did she say? What did you do about it? What are they going to do now? Even still, half of his question, I just shake my head and say, "I don't know." As you might imagine, a girl with stuff to say meets boy who wants every little detail and you get long-winded-ness.

Are you wondering who the third person might be? He's the one who started this madness: my dad. My father is a poet, a reader, a writer, a romantic. He has a way with words, and he throws around & coins phrases that make the rest of us snicker and scratch our heads and say, "Omigosh, I love Dad." I will no doubt reference much of my Dad's phraseology in the future. He's the one who will give me an "Are you kidding me?" face and say, "Yeah, so to make a short story long, huh, Punk?"

I want to be brief, for, as foolish Polonious said, "Brevity is the soul of wit." Lord knows I'd love to believe myself witty, not to mention that I think people respond well to a blurb or an anecdote. However, years of telling my inane thought-stories to a detail-oriented man has retrained me. I'm trying. I'm mostly failing, but I am trying.


  1. Do you know what I remember Mrs. Keonig teaching? "Know your audience." It's a valuable piece of advice. I've actually written about it before.

    I love words, this is no doubt why I ramble so well.

  2. Short papers are better. Less BS. That's why on tests, I only write what needs to be said. If I can get the same amount of information in less words, I see nothing wrong with that.