Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Devil's in the Details

Whoops--I started this post and accidentally pressed the publish button with just the start of the title, "The Devil." I'm sure some people wondered what that was about. I will try again!
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I have never counted myself as an excellent out loud story teller. The trouble is, occasionally there is a story that I want to tell.

If my stories were paintings they would be in the style of the impressionists; those 19th century French artists who used tiny dots or brush strokes, of light and dark and colour, to create the impression of whatever it was they were painting. Viewed up close all one can see is seemingly random dots. From afar, the portrait or scene is clear.

The older I get, the less I worry about unnecessary details, and have got used to my children saying, "Mom, that's not what happened." I throw out the approximate facts, not with any intention of misleading, but I honestly just want to make a point and don't let the details get in the way.

And so it was last Friday at lunch with my coworkers. One of them was running a half marathon on the weekend, which reminded me of the amazing documentary Paul and I had recently watched, called, Super Heroes. There was a man who had run a half marathon in Finland, in below freezing temperatures. I started off by telling them how he had prepared for the cold by sitting in very cold water for an extended period--"It was, like, minus 8 degrees." I said.

"Belinda, the water would have been frozen," said one of my work mates.

"Well, it was very cold," I said, "And he stayed in it for an amazing length of time, actually raising his body temperature." Every one was suitably impressed by that.

"And then he ran the half marathon, in freezing temperatures, barefoot, with no clothes on."

Again my helpful workmate drew me back to reality. "He ran naked?"

"No!" I laughed, "Not naked. He had spandex shorts on, but that was all--he had no proper clothes on." The thought of a truly naked marathoner was quite funny for a moment and distracted me further.

By the time I got the story out, amazing as it was (he should have lost toes to frost bite, but willed them back to life from waxy white lifelessness) I think it lost something, but it did make me think about my poor grip on some details and how fixed some other people are on them! :)

I so admire people who can recite the names of actors and actresses in the movies they're talking about. If I can remember the title of the movie I am doing very well, even though I love watching movies.

I have come to the conclusion that there are detail people and non detail people and I know which camp I am in! How about you?

7 comments:

Angcat said...

HaHa.
I'm a detail person definitely, but not by choice. It's helpful in some remembering and telling, but almost detracts from the storytelling as the details override the fun of the storytelling.
I can just hear Frank's voice as he said "Belinda, the water would be frozen."
And I've since confirmed that he was the dispeller of the naked runner myth too.

Sorry for that.
:-)
Your telling would have been much more enjoyable.
...the freezing man sitting in a block of ice, then running naked through the town...
hmmmm quite the image.

Marilyn said...

Hahahahaha. You are so right.

I think I am a detail person based on the fact that I sometimes get so caught up in the details that I see peoples eyes glazing over. I try to stay alert to that.

Also, i have a few people in my life, a married couple actually, who, when they are telling a story, will argue the fine points that have absolutely nothing to do with the main point of the story. Aaagghh!

BTW, where I come from, exaggerating the details of a story (like saying "-8 degrees") is so part of the way stories are told - the culture - that listeners understand and immediately translate back to "the water was VERY cold."

I enjoyed this post!
I even enjoyed your accidental PRE-posting. I fell asleep last evening, looking forward. "Ooo, Belinda is going to write something about the Devil. I wonder what it is." :-)

Belinda said...

I laugh at the pre post Marilyn, because last week, one of my friends, Lori Lei, was aghast at what she thought was a terrible coup of Whatever He Says, by "the dark side." It turned out she was on a site with a similar name but which was the polar opposite!

When "the devil" went out into cyberspace, shot from my own slippery fingers on the keyboard, I thought, "Oh NO!!" :)

Dave Hingsburger said...

perhaps you need to inculcate in others a 'devil may care' attitude. sitting in below zero water makes sense to me. running a naked marathon - well i think that makes a way better story - but no man should do that after sitting in cold water!

Belinda said...

Oh, Dave, you just made me laugh out loud and I'm still laughing. I've had so much fun with the imagery and it just keeps on! :) Thank you for the sheer fun and laughter everyone, with naked and frozen runners etc. I don't even feel quite such a hopeless story teller now, and it's nice to know that at least I would be quite at home in Marilyn's neck of the woods!

paula said...

Belinda - I have been hard on myself forever for not being a 'detail' person - it's good to know there are others like me !Perhaps it is why I enjoy your clean, crisp writing style so much. You never get bogged down in the details !
A friend and I follow your blog, dare I say it - religiously ?
Paula Walker

Belinda said...

Hi Paula,
Thank you for the honour of reading here. If you sometimes find a smile, or a release from some unnecessary focus such as details, all is well. :)