‘It all started when the phone rang that afternoon.’ Kyle stared into his glass of bourbon as if it were a crystal ball replaying the past. ‘Most everyone in the office, including the secretary, was at lunch so I answered. The voice on the other end, a woman’s voice, sounded desperate for help. She wanted to speak with Mr. Strauss, the firm’s best corporate lawyer, but he was downtown with the other partners enjoying an expensive meal at a haughty restaurant.’
‘Is that what you told her?’ The bartender scratched his gelatinous chin.
‘It should’ve been,’ Kyle said. ‘Though the situation was obviously over my pay grade, I couldn’t just send her voicemail. That voice was so sultry; I was compelled to talk to her. I had to know more.’ Kyle tipped the glass back and downed his drink. ‘Biggest mistake of my life.’
The bartender poured another without prompting.
‘If you don’t mind my asking, what the hell happened?’ He asked Kyle with a hushed tone.
‘That’s what I keep asking myself,’ Kyle said.
A simple but effective technique is the story within a story approach. In the example above we learn about the events of a story as Kyle speaks of them while at the same time a second story is told of the bartender and his reaction to the first story. This gives the reader more information than would be available if the scene only described the events at the office. Kyle’s melancholy attitude and the bartender’s interest show the reader the emotional impact that those events will have on Kyle thus building tension.
Another form of the story within the story concept is the confessional. This is a pause in the main plot where a scene about a character’s past is included. It can be either narrative or dialogue, but the purpose is to take a look at an important point in the character’s past and learn something of the character that explains why they are the way they are or what motivates them. It is fun to drop a familiar character in a whole new set of circumstances and take a break from the current story. It allows the reader to see more aspects of them and keeps the story fresh.
Story with in a story is a simple idea and is used a lot in a myriad of forms. It will add a dimension to your writing that will give your plots and characters depth they didn’t have before.
Until next time- happy writing.
Michael Matthews Bingamon