It’s All in the Details

June 8, 2023

Read both of these short stories and think about which you prefer: 

1. A man was rushing to an appointment, and in his hurry he ran over a pothole and got a flat tire. He didn’t know how to change it himself, so he was relieved to remember he subscribed to a service that would come and do it for him whenever he needed. He called the number, spoke to an agent, and help arrived shortly. They changed his tire quickly and he made it to the appointment with a minute to spare. (80 Words)

2. Last Thursday, my friend Matt was rushing between meetings to make it to his daughter Allie’s springtime clarinet recital. In his hurry, he ran right over a pothole between the lights on Main and West St. – the same pothole he’s called the town 5 times to fill. After hearing a thud and a scrape Matt knew he had a flat. Worse even, he also knew he couldn’t change it himself. Thank God he renewed the AAA subscription! John the mechanic came right by and put the donut on lickety-split. Matt made it to Allie’s recital with a minute to spare, and her squeaky rendition of “Ode to Joy” made all the trouble worthwhile. (110 Words)

In just a few words difference, the details added in story 2 paint a completely different picture. We’re given a time (Spring), place (Between Main and West St.), a cast of characters (Matt, Allie, John), context for the gravity of the situation (can’t miss Allie’s big recital), and a heartwarming conclusion (joy!). 

With the addition of these rich data points, the writer provides opportunities for relatability. You wouldn’t remember the generic telling of story 1 in a week because there’s nothing to latch onto. But you might be able to recall Matt’s situation when you next run over that familiar pothole in your neighborhood, or when you hear your kid scratching out a tune while they practice for their next school assembly. Maybe you forgot to renew your AAA and this story jogged your memory! Next time you encounter a flat and have to call your own John, you might have Matt to thank. 

Don’t skimp on the details. All of these tools are at your disposal to resonate with your audience. The human connection between you and your client when you tell a great story is worth the expense of 30 more words.