I have always been a believer in the fact that you can’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. My family (well, three of us) are well known for rounding out a story to make it more entertaining. Some would call it exaggeration. I call it storyteller’s license. It’s what makes your run of the mill, every day experiences into something that other people want to hear about. And I love an audience.
It might surprise you to hear that it’s not all roses in the life of the big talker. There are occasions when good stories go bad. This doesn’t happen to the seasoned storyteller but can be a trap for young players. As a couple of novices I know found out.
We were having dinner at a friend’s place last week when he told us of someone he knows who is about to propose to his girlfriend. Always keen to help (and fuelled by a few drinks – like petrol to a storyteller), the friend jumped in and offered up the services of yet another friend who happens to own a jewellery store. He mentioned that he could get her to do him an exceptionally cheap deal. Now I have NO idea how things got so out of control, but now the engager is under the impression that he can get an $20k ring for $2k. He is so excited about it that he is telling all his friends. Every time he tells someone in front of the storyteller, the storyteller gets so excited by the reaction that he reinforces the story. The full realisation of what he has done is only just starting to sink in. Needless to say, he’s not looking forward to that engagement party.
I think perhaps the best example I have ever heard of a good story taking a turn, is one from my varsity days. My old flatmate was out drinking one night (yup – it’s always a factor) when she met a cute guy at the bar. She introduced herself and he noticed that her lastname was the same as that of a famous sportsman. He asked if they were related and she said (ok, lied) that she was his especially close and absolutely favourite cousin. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to her, the cousin of the famous sportsman happened to be a semi-famous surfer. She of course jumped on that band wagon as well.
All probably would have been well except that the guy was so taken with this drunk surfer chick from the famous family that he got her number and they started dating. He told all his mates about her and they lined up to hit the waves with her. The unfortunate truth of the matter was that she couldn’t even swim.
After several months the guy started to wonder why her favourite cousin was never at any family functions with all the other cousins. Last I saw of them, they were getting married and he was still blissfully unaware of his fiancee’s lack of fame and fear of the waves.
So the moral of this particular story is that if you don’t know how to factor exaggeration into a good yarn, what you are actually doing is the thing more commonly known as lying.