It took me a while to fully appreciate that whether you’re recounting something imaginary (like telling a friend about a movie you’ve seen) or sharing actual details from your day, you’re basically telling a story. This seems obvious enough in itself, I know, but it took me a while to connect this kind of storytelling to writing fiction. As is often the case when coming to realizations, it was a friend that helped me out.
I used to work with a man who was a gifted raconteur and joke-teller. Often, as we rode together to a job he would entertain me by recounting his off-hour conversations and activities. But most memorable were the many times he’d tell me about a movie he’d recently seen, from start to finish—which I really enjoyed since I wasn’t nearly the movie-goer then that he was. My friend’s talent for engaging my imagination was so keen that after he’d concluded telling me about a movie, I felt like I’d practically seen it myself. In fact, what really illustrates his gift of story-telling, is that a time or two over the years I’ve had to think hard on whether I’d actually seen a particular movie or it was my friend’s recap of it that I was recalling. It was my co-worker’s knack for recounting that helped me see its connection to writing fiction. And so, when I write, I find it helps me to imagine that I’m simply telling about things I’ve actually witnessed or heard about in a conversation; and then I try to do so in a way that will engage and entertain, just as my friend did.