Posts Tagged ‘edit’

So you’ve written this story for your speech. It fits your theme nicely. It looks fine. So, it’s ready to go, right?

Not so fast. Professional speakers and professional writers know that what you have written is a first draft and it needs editing or polishing. The refinement of the story is the secret of its success.

Editing is not the most fun I ever had, but I do a lot of it. Here are my best tips for a speech story:

  1. Write or word process your story so you can see it as well as hear it in your head.
  2. Remove the passive verbs and replace them with active verbs. A passive verb says ‘This happened to me’; an active verb says ‘I did this’. For example: ‘I was hit by the bus’ should  be ‘I couldn’t jump out of the way fast enough. The bus hit me.’
  3. Try to remove every instance of ‘There is’, ‘There was’. ‘There was a dog sitting in the middle of the street’ becomes ‘A dog sat in the middle of the street’.
  4. Have you used the word ‘looked’ as in ‘She looked surprised.’? You need to be more specific. In what way did she look surprised? Did her mouth drop open? Did her eyes widen? Did she cuss or jump backwards? don’t short-change us in the actual movement and feeling of the moment.
  5. Note the points where you will pause to allow listeners a moment to absorb the emotion of the moment. Look at the words following the pause and make sure they gently pull the listener back into the story.
  6. Find ways to present information in dialog rather than simply telling it.
  7. Look for ways to increase the emotional connection, especially with the main character. The listener should feel sadness for him, fear for him – whatever emotion fits. Use vocabulary or manipulate the scene to increase this connection. The main character might make mistakes. Bring home the feeling, the frustration. We’ve all made mistakes; we all connect.
  8. Use telling detail in your description. If the scene is in a coffee shop, we all know what a coffee shop looks like. Decide what detail will bring this one into focus – the  bulletin board of community events, the napkin folded under a table leg, the barista’s nose ring.
  9. Read your story to a friend and ask questions. What was the point of the story? Which part grabbed you? Why do you think my mistake led to that result? Are you left with any questions? A good friend will reveal the weaknesses and help you come up with a stronger story.
  10. As the structure and detail of your story improves practice it – not as a story you are telling –  but as an experience listeners are hearing for the first time. How can you make their experience richer and more meaningful?

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So,  you’ve won the club contest, the  Area and the Division. Yay! Congratulations! You done good! You done very good!

So now you have moved on to the District contest. The competition is unbelievably steep. How do you prepare?

You’ve edited the speech at least fifty times. You’ve presented it until you can give it in your sleep. Everybody and their dogs have given you hints and told you where you could improve it.

“That first gesture is too weak.” “That first gesture is too strong”. Your conclusion from all this advice? It’s about right.

But what can you do to give yourself that little extra edge when you have already gone over it up, down and sideways?

1. You could try backing off for a while, then coming back to it with fresh eyes.

2. You could try giving the text to a friend or two and asking them to give it their best presentation to you. Now you can observe how someone else would present it. You might get a couple of new ideas. Notice where they have difficulty or stumble over words.

3. You could watch videos of professional humorous speakers and immerse yourself in their presentation of humorous material. See how they do it. Notice the little tricks and the word use. Analyze how they make even their transitions funny.

4. You could ask the funniest speaker you know to coach you.

5. This last one might seem odd. Is there some emotional moment in your speech? A point where there’s a hiatus in the  laughter and you give your audience a contrasting emotion (fear, sadness, anxiety)? If yes, can you deepen that moment of contrast? If no, can you insert that moment of contrasting feeling?   It gives your speech and your humor an extra dimension.

Good luck!

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Sharpen the plot

My dad was always careful with his tools. When he finished using them he would clean them, oil them if necessary and store them carefully until next time.  If I used a tool I’d just chuck it back on the bench somewhere and he would come along later and clean it ready for use. When I asked him why he looked after tools so carefully he replied, “Why would I bother trying to chop wood with a blunt axe?”

Good point. When it comes to deciding on a plot it’s easy enough to state a plot using the formula outlined in “Dem Bones”:

(Character) wants (goal) because (motive) but (obstacle)

But with a little extra thought you can sharpen it into something even better.  By better I mean more interesting, more gripping, more intense, more emotional. Choose the adjective you would like to see enhanced in your story.

One way to state Jack and the Beanstalk’s plot might be “Jack wants the giant’s treasure because he is very poor but ….

In a lot of plots the character wants to achieve his goal for the simple reason that he isn’t like that now. Jack wants riches because he is poor, an addict wants to be clean just because she is addicted and knows it’s a rotten way to live. The goal is implicit in the way the character is at the start of the story. Good enough. It’s much better though if you up the ante. If Jack’s mother is ill and needs expensive medicine. If the addict will lose her child if she can’t get clean.

It’s better still if Jack’s mother will die without the medicine or the addict has this one last chance to keep her child.

And even better if Jack’s mother will die tonight without the medicine or the addict’s child has been pleading in tears to stay with her mother.

Each time you up the stakes you sharpen the axe; you cut right to the emotion of the story. You pull your audience in, you make your story memorable. Check your stories, anecdotes and examples to see if you can sharpen them, sharpen them again, then sharpen them some more.

It’s another tool in your story tellers toolbox.

You have a thousand stories. You just need to find them.

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