My son has an ear for music. Once he’s heard it, he can play it. Have you met people like that? Some can sing perfectly on key. Others know immediately when a note is off, and what note it should have been.
Like some have an ear for music, some people have an eye for a story. It might have happened to them, or be something they observed or an event someone told them about. Their life is rich with of stories.
Think of a family reunion. Uncle Joe and Aunt Martha have been married for 50 years. Uncle Joe is full of stories. Aunt Martha, well, you can’t get her to tell a story. It’s as if nothing ever happened to her. Lots of Uncle Joe’s stories happened when Aunt Martha was right there, part of it. But he has a story about it and she doesn’t.
Do you notice how much pleasure Uncle Joe gets from his stories? Sure, he exaggerates a bit (maybe a lot) but he enjoys telling them. The family comes around to listen and he loves the audience. They may have heard the tale before but it’s fun to listen to. It feels good to share Uncle Joe’s pleasure in the telling.
Uncle Joe has enriched himself – and his family – with the stories he has collected. The time he fell of his horse and broke his leg – hilarious! Maybe it wasn’t so much fun at the time. However, by the time he has explained why he was distracted, why the horse was spooked and what the doctor said afterwards he has picked out the elements of character, conflict and resolution. He has a story worthy of a bard.
What is an eye for a story? Sometimes it is just noticing a moment that is out of the ordinary. Someone who is always on time misses a plane. I’ve heard that one expanded into a story full of powerful learning. How many people miss planes and just get annoyed with themselves?
Sometimes it is noticing a person, or people, who are out of the ordinary, or out-of-place at the moment. Maybe you can ask their story, or maybe you can just make it up as an exercise in story telling. Suppose you saw a group of biker chicks respectfully in church. Or you saw this man utterly outraged because his egg wasn’t cooked properly in a restaurant. What could the story be?
How often have you been in a setting that was unusual to you. You noticed every detail so you could remember it later. What story can you imagine there? Are any ‘what if’s’ coming to mind?
Suppose someone asked you to tell a story about where you ate lunch yesterday. Could you make a story of it? Or pick any meal in the last month or so – which one has a story attached?
Developing an eye for a story is like developing any other muscle. You have to work at it. Find a possible story moment. Define the moment of impetus. Notice what fuel fed the fire. What was said and how was it said? Develop the conflict, add word pictures of the details. Notice (or add if need be) a satisfying conclusion. And you will have a story to add to your life collection.