Telling stories vs. writing them

Today’s blog is a guest post from a good, if virtual friend. Harry Widdifield is described as “too dangerous for Facebook.” Probably because he doesn’t think the way most people do.

By Harry Widdifield

Humans are sponges for stories. “What’s up?” “How’s it going?” “What have you been up to?” “What’s new?” These are all questions built around a simple human desire: Tell me a story!

But there is a stark contrast between what is expected when we tell someone a story in the context of conversation, and putting it on the page for others to experience.

When we tell people stories, we typically expect them to convey what happened and to convey their own emotions on the matter. We are communing with them as they share their experience.

A writer, on the other hand, seeks to move past that, to a deeper place in story, where the reader communes with the story itself, not the author. Where they experience the emotions of the story for themselves. The goal of an author is to relay the story so personally, that the reader wants to put a coat on when the protagonist is cold! Or as Author Ciara Ballintyne says, “The difference between telling a story and writing a story is the difference between telling someone it is raining and making them feel the rain.”

“I had a terrific ham sandwich for lunch today” tells a friend that I enjoyed my lunch today. Short as it is, that’s the whole of it. mission accomplished. But the listener gets nothing out of it other than perhaps an opportunity to commune with the storyteller and offer a rundown of their own lunch time experience: “Meh, Fuck your ham sandwich. I had fajitas at Tex Mex R’Us.”

The writer, on the other hand, has a totally different task: She (I am using the generic “she” (Who decided generic pronouns have to be masculine? I reject that.)) (Where was I? (Oh. Right)) has to take the ham sandwich out of her own mouth and put it into the reader’s in its prechewed state and then deliver it to the reader’s taste buds in all of its hamesque glory:

“I’d never ordered a ham sandwich at a restaurant before, but when I saw it on the menu, I figured it must be something spectacular, or it wouldn’t have made the grade, so I decided to give it a chance. I ordered it with a glass of milk which was served so cold that condensation instantly trickled down the glass and formed a thick wet ring on the dark oak tabletop underneath it.

The server slid a plastic basket in front of me, lined in red and white checkered wax paper and filled to capacity with a chilled pickle wedge and french fries beside a wedge cut artisan white bread sandwich thick with the pinkness of freshly cooked ham, a generous yet somehow perfect portion of still-chilled curly green lettuce leaf, a perfect slice of tomato and just the slightest hint of mustard seeping out from under the ham on the hot side, and creamy mayonnaise generously applied to the cool side which left just a hint of it’s existence on the lettuce.

“Enjoy” she said. I barely heard her. I was l already in love with my meal.

I picked up the rigid chilled pickle wedge and took a crisp bite. Something inside the pickle popped playfully under the pressure of my teeth coming together and leapt onto the tip of my nose as if celebrating the achievement of a promise. It tickled. I reached for a white paper napkin and dabbed the juice from its perch. I took a plump crinkle-cut french fry from the basket, and without taking a moment to dip it in ketchup, I plopped it into my mouth. I could feel the grains of salt hit my tongue before I tasted them and then they melted into rough, potatoey goodness as I began slowly to chew.

I was hungrier than I realized and instantly I was aware of my whole body focusing at once on the pleasure of my feeding! I swallowed and reached both hands down into the basket to get a purchase on the sandwich.

I could feel the wet of the chilled lettuce and the gooey condiments and juices of the heated ham escaping the bonds of the sandwich and dripping down my palms toward my wrists, tickling my skin. I didn’t care! I smiled when remembering an old Carl’s Junior commercial “If if doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face!” I raised the sandwich to my still-waiting maw, sniffed in the fragrance of the freshly baked bread mingled with the ham and felt as if I might actually have an orgasm!

I pressed it into my mouth, mayonnaise and mustard grabbing onto the corners like musicians reaching for anything they could hold onto to keep from falling from sinking deck of Titanic. Then I bit down, viciously tearing away a bite almost too big to chew and replaced the sandwich to its cradle, before picking up the napkin once again, this time for my hands, and then I began to chew.

First I tasted the vinegary yellow mustard on the warm, soft bread, with the semi-hard crust, followed by the meaty, hot, and salty ham so fresh that one might assume the restaurant ran a slaughterhouse out back. The flavors of the mustard and ham began to bring in the sweetness of the cool tomato, the crunch of the lettuce, the creamy tang of the mayonnaise and the capping taste of the sister piece of bread. I chewed them into a pasty, mass of commingled deliciousness and swallowed. I set the napkin down and reached for the cold glass of milk, brought it to my lips, sucked in and drained a quarter of the glass at once, swishing it around in my mouth to grab onto all of the small particles of sandwich left behind, to prepare my mouth for a fresh new bite. The coolness made my teeth ache a little. It was worth it! I swallowed put the milk down and reached back in the basket for my prey! This was a perfect sandwich!”

Okay, so maybe this is a little overwrought, and entirely too filled with adjectives, but it is filled with relatable experience: The reader is part of what’s happening–not just hearing about it.

“Fuck my ham sandwich? No, no, no! my friend! Fuck your fajitas!”

This, my friends is the difference between telling stories and writing them. As I sit, having just written this, there’s likely not a ham sandwich within 10 miles of me, but I can tell you this much: Right now, there’s not a ham sandwich within a thousand miles of me that’s safe!

Happy writing!

Harry Widdifield is the Head Writer and driving force behind the My Jewish Space Laser blog. He is also the author of Trumpocalypse, Ten-Minute Tales, the author’s help book, How I Are Becomed a Very Much Gooder Author and several other books.

Harry is also an entrepreneur, cryptocurrency dabbler, truck driver and all around free spirit. He was recently kicked off of Facebook for his tell-it-as-he-sees-it style. Some people find that off-putting, but it shows me I can trust him.

He’s also a major character in my upcoming post-apocalyptic novel. Brash, but good hearted and unabashedly smart and determined, upon being removed from Facebook, he immediately said [sic] “Fuck it. I’m starting a blog!” From that, was born. Harry tells me it is an idea incubator that he’s using to plot out the next big thing in communication: decentralized social media built around how humans really act within their various social circles, instead of an overarching set of arbitrary rules that presume to tell people how they should talk. Watch his space!

And check out my blog post on his site.

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