There are two distinct varieties of narrative: reporting and storytelling. You might think this means that narrative style is dependent upon the situation or event. That would be logical; it would also be wrong, at least when it comes to my kid. It turns out that reporters and storytellers are born, not made. Example in spades:
The Jock comes home from a weekend tourney across the state. He drops his bags, freshens up, then sits down with us to dinner.
“How was it?” I ask. The Jock is good; he enjoys sharing; at his own pace, of course.
“Wet,” he begins. “Muddy. The fields were really bad.”
He proceeds to relate tales of the tournament. They did well. He enjoyed himself. They left for home at midday. He was really tired, so at the first rest stop he swapped out with his buddy, letting him drive while the Jock snoozed.
They made good time. They were approaching the movie theater that was their usual rendezvous for the other guy’s dad. They lived another forty-five minutes away, so his father met them near our house to take him home, without taking the Jock so far out of his way.
The other kid, the one driving, wasn’t as familiar with the turnoff. The Jock had to point it out to him. The kid was a little late. He didn’t quite make it through the break in the median. He sort of drove right up onto it, leaving the car stranded, none of its tires touching the ground.
They’d called AAA for a tow truck. A policeman stopped by to make sure no one was hurt; no one was. The other kid was dreadfully embarrassed; they were good friends. The Jock got his father’s insurance information. The tow truck came and managed to pull the car off the median. The driver peeked underneath, said the damage didn’t look too bad. At the very least, it was drivable. The other kid and his dad took off and the Jock made his way home.
“I would have been here half an hour ago otherwise,” he finished up, wiping spaghetti sauce up off his plate while I tried to lift my jaw off the floor, realizing what he was telling us.
This is storytelling.
Backstory; pacing; narrative; leading and misleading to an unexpected event.
The Jock is good at it. Really good. Over the years, I’ve finally learned not to interrupt him with questions. It’s neither a medical history nor a cross-examination. Listen patiently and all will become clear in good time.
A reporter would have dashed into the house and announced breathlessly, “I would have been here half an hour ago but Ryan drove the car up onto the median and we had to call a tow truck!”
No buried lead. Just the facts. Check out any front page newspaper story for the format.
Not my Jock, though. He’s a storyteller.