Storytelling is an art. Perhaps the oldest art. It is a way to live on after death. It is a way to impact the next generation and those beyond them. It is important.
We tell stories in my house. But it started before us...My father was a storyteller. Some were fantastic and a little jaw-dropping in this current age (like the brother who died because his hair got stuck in the tub drain--to get us to keep our long hair away from it while bathing), while others made us giggle with wonder (like the dozens of variations on Grizzly Adams and the Indian Chief looking for his son Falling Rock--you know, like the road sign: 'Watch for Falling Rock.') Now he shares his crazy mind with my children, and they love "Papa's" stories.
So we tell stories. I make my kids superheroes and animal whisperers, great adventurers, pilots, artists, and ballerinas. They have been around the world through our stories. They have battled Transformers and befriended lions, tamed snakes, and saved many'a'zoo.
And now my 2yo daughter is picking up the torch. Unfortunately, her favorite place to tell stories is on the swing. This means that I hear the tale like a Jim Carrey balcony scene: every other phrase is missing. For instance yesterday, a prince and a princess were dancing. Then, all of a sudden, the princess was in a spider web! I didn't get to hear the action that brought her to this scary fate.
This phenomenon made me think...What if we leave too much out of our narrative? There is no reason to show a character's every move from plot start to plot end. But leave out too much, and the reader can become lost. 'How did MC get here? Why did he go here?' they might wonder.
I recently finished a book that left me feeling a little like this. It is a book I had long anticipated as the author is widely sold (internationally) and respected. Jo Nesbø's Nemesis struck me this way. It wasn't necessarily action that was missing, but more the feeling that I was missing some information. And then there would be a paragraph I'd have to reread because I was sure I had skipped a page, but hadn't.
In this case, it very well could have been the translation. But...will I read another Nesbø? Because of his reputation, yes. But not as quickly as I would have. Will I continue to listen to my daughter's stories? Of course! But only because she is my daughter. If a career storyteller told them in every other sentence fashion, I wouldn't stick around.
How about you? Do you struggle with how much action to include and how much to leave out? Have you ever read an author who has this problem?