Telling a story

Characters often tell each other stories. 

In this snippet, a troll called Kalgrash is telling a story about being on the run from humans.

“So I had to hide so the humans wouldn’t see me. I hid in little ditches and near the river and things, looking for my burrow. I decided to go back up the mountain and ask Sniggleping what was going on. I get to his lair, and the door’s open. Nothing’s there. It’s been cleaned out or he’s evacuated. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if something had happened and I hadn’t been told. So I ran down the mountain and went to Prudence’s house.”

What's going on in this story?

  • First, Kalgrash tells the listener his goal (he needs to hide so humans don't see him).
  • Then he describes the first actions he took to get his goal (he hid in ditches, looking for his burrow).
  • He describes a decision he made to do something different to meet his goal (he decided to go to Sniggleping).
  • He describes another action (he got to his friend's lair).
  • He makes an observation (Sniggleping's lair had been emptied out)
  • He describes his thoughts (he didn't know what to do or what had happened)
  • Finally, he describes a third action (running to Prudence's house).

Overall it's a story about a character trying all sorts of different ways to reach a goal, while being afraid and uncertain about what was happening around them.

Characters tell stories for many reasons. They want to explain, entertain, impress, warn—even just to fill the silence.

And characters can tell different types of stories: simple, elaborate, long, short, scary, happy, true, made-up.

But stories told through dialogue are different to other stories because they are told in a character's voice, and from their point of view. 

Here are some more examples of stories told in dialogue.

“Once I was surrounded by one-hundred and twenty angry monkeys. But I was not afraid. I decided to trick them. I grabbed my bag of many things and pulled out a handful of nuts. I threw them left and the monkeys all chased after them, then I ran away and was long gone by the time the angry monkeys realised what clever Gobgap had done.”

“I figured I’d go, so I had a shower and did my hair and everything. Got there late. I’d decided that I was going to have a good time, didn’t matter who was there, but when I walked in, the place was dead. Like, maybe five people, including Alex—you know, the kid with the hair? Deadsville. And it was depressing. I was like, I can’t do this, so I noped out and went to KFC.”

Write your own variation where a character tells another character a story. Why are they telling it? Are they just passing on information? Are they trying to entertain? To warn?