The Inside Dope

ChobeHippoAll of us, especially those of us who live in the public eye, have plenty of stories that can be told from a number of angles. There’s at least the public story, as told in press releases and articles, and there’s the “real” story as you experienced it. The “inside dope” story is the juicy one. When you write your life story, you have a chance to take your readers on a back stage tour and tell them “the rest of the story.” Here’s a purely fictitious example of the difference, adapted from a story told by management guru Tom Peters:

Press Release (Summary):
Credit card executive hops on a plane on the spur of the moment to fly to Africa to hand deliver a replacement card to Very Important Customer after canoeing up a raging river in the middle of a jungle full of crocodiles, rhinos, tsetse flies and malarial mosquitoes, with no regard for personal comfort, danger, cost or inconvenience to himself, his family, his company, or his community. What a hero! What service!
Inside Dope Story:
I’d always dreamed of a trip to Africa. I remember watching Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen, piloting that boat down the river in the face all those obstacles. What a man! I wanted to be there, to do that, but I never had time. There was always another deal to close, another fire to put out, another promotion to launch, another golf tournament or deadly benefit dinner to attend. Then one night Phil and I got to talking about his upcoming safari, just the two of us, over Glen Livet and Cuban cigars. I admitted how much I envied him and wished I could go along. Suddenly his eyes flashed the way they do when he thinks of a way to pull of a takeover or something, and a smile spread from ear to ear.
“Jack, I have this strong premonition I’m going to lose my credit card in Nairobi. Why don’t you hop on the company jet and personally bring your firm’s best client a new one? Hell, can you think of a better PR stunt? I’ll have a few extra guns and provisions. We’ll have the time of our lives, and every cent will be a write-off!”
How could I not? Of course neither one of us told anyone. We couldn’t afford to have it look staged. Actually, by the time he got there, he’d arranged to take off up some river so I’d have to follow him and make it look even better. He really did a great job of setting everything up, and even better, giving me the adventure I’d been dying for and something to live for, at least for a few weeks. I love that man like a brother!
The timing was perfect. Genevieve was on another of her frequent jaunts to Paris, shopping for more designer rags to wear to the boring benefits. I always have a back-up on call for appearances at Rotary clubs and other routine events, “in case of emergency,” real or convenient. And of course when the time came, marketing and PR went absolutely ape over this idea, and I’ll admit, it was a stroke of genius. I mean, leaking word to Tom Peters … absolutely brilliant! And of course Peters was slobbering like a St. Bernard. This was the sort of story he’d kill for. But that’s what I pay those guys for, to plant the seeds in fertile fields. I have a hunch a few people had their suspicions about the whole deal, but nobody said a word. After all, it paid handsome dividends, thanks especially to Peters. That’s what I get paid for — to field a team that can pull this stuff off.
Now, let me tell you about the trip…
You may have thoughts about which of those stories is True. In their own way, each is. Your life may not be quite as glamorous or your stakes as high, but you surely have some stories that can be told more than one way and make better reading from the inside. Write ‘em up. Come clean. Your family and the world want to know.
Write Now: Think of a story you’ve always told one way in public. Perhaps it’s one of your trademark stories, one that “everybody” knows about you. But you know there’s more to the story. Write the story with “the inside dope.”
Photo: Sharon Lippincott


LeRoy Dean said...

Enjoyed this post.

SuziCate said...

Makes me think of the details I leave out of my stories when I tell them to family as opposed when I tell them to friends!!!! Well, not anymore but when I was younger. Details do change depending on the audience, kind of like what you tell the church ladies and what you tell your friends!

Sharon Lippincott said...

LeRoy, thanks for stopping by. I had fun writing it. Taking an occasional fiction break is energizing.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Great example of additional facets, SuziCate. If I'd stretched and had more room, I'll bet I could have come up with at least six more versions of this story: one for the HR and Marketing Directors, one for Wife, one for ... Tom Peters? You get the picture, and you can imagine how different each might be.

Your example is closer to home for most of us.

kathleen said...

Amazing how much fun you can have with words! I really agree with SuziCate,"the details do change depending upon the audience."
Really enjoyed the post!

JoAnn Melton said...

Amazingly, this parallels a thought I had this week. If I were writing the story for a few individuals, I can shortcut the details of who certain people are in the tale. If I am writing it for people who know, say "Patti" I would have to disguise the names involved. If someone does not know Patti I would have to explain more of her role in the tale.

I think this is one of the challenges that face many memoirs writers, and perhaps writers in general. Finding the right ingredients to make the story appealing to one's wide audience is the challenge.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thanks Kathleen. The details also change with the PURPOSE. I knew that, but had not thought of it with respect to this particular story, which is a perfect example.

Sharon Lippincott said...

JoAnn, Ah, so. See remarks about Purpose above. Your remarks help jar that thought loose.

Amber Lea Starfire said...

Sharon, writing one story in two or three different ways with different audiences (and purposes) in mind is a great writing exercise. Not only for the craft of writing, but also to help "ferret out" the real story you want to tell. Thanks for another great post.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Yay, Amber. I had not thought of that angle of writing two or three versions, that of nailing the story you really want to tell. Definitely! Thanks for pointing this out. Teamwork rocks.