Situation or Story? Ask Dr. Seuss.

Situation or Story? Ask Dr. Seuss.

What’s the difference between an idea (or a situation) and a story.

For the answer, let’s turn to one of my favorite authors: Dr. Seuss! He knew how to take ridiculous situations . . .

. . . like a moose with great antlers that allows a bug, then a spider, then a bird, a few squirrels, a bobcat, a turtle, to nest in his horns . . .

and turn it all into a story about something. (That story, Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose, turns out to be about friendship & generosity, and being taken advantage of, and how to get out of awkward situations . . . .)

In teaching about storytelling, Dr. Seuss (real name, Theodore Geisel) once offered this example: consider a man with two heads.

That’s not a story yet. It’s a situation.

It becomes a story only if you spin it out.

Think about, Seuss suggested, what could come out of that situation? Where’s the drama?

How about, he suggested, the “problem of getting two haircuts, two hats, two neckties, two toothbrushes”?

This is how stories grow from situations . . . you think about what might happen after that starting point. And especially . . . what problems might occur?

What if the two heads of the two-headed man don’t agree about which barber to go to? What if they start to argue about it?

That’s what makes a story. Things happen. And problems pop up.

That’s what makes a story out of a two-headed man . . . or whatever is the starting idea of your story.

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