What About Editing?

Stories are edited. Things make sense in a story. Everything is there for a reason. Any writers’ course will tell you that. In a good story, there should be no extraneous details. We don’t need to hear characters having the usually pleasantries like, “Hey’ how’s it going?” or “What are you doing? – Nothing.” We edit that out of the story and get right to the point.

“The big difference between fiction and real life is that fiction is edited.”

I beg to differ. Real life is edited as well.

“What? Real life is messy, disorganized. Things are there that don’t make sense.”

That might be true, or rather it may seem true, but that is because we basically don’t know the whole story. It’s like we are all in a third-person limited narrative. We make sense of our story from what we know of it. But even in doing that, we are editing our story.

“How do we do that?”

In our memories. Our brains organize things into story for us. Things never seem to make sense until we can spin it into a story. And we don’t need all the details. Certain things are always left out in our memories. Our brain chooses which information it wishes to keep and whatever it doesn’t find useful gets thrown out.

“That’s why witness accounts are often so different. They’ve spun a slightly different story in their brain.”

Yes, exactly. They’ve remembered different parts of the scene and put it together in way that made sense to them. That’s why investigators pay so much attention to them. One person might have built a narrative that will include one significant detail that will tie in to all the others. Police have quite a job getting at the actual truth of a situation because of all the editing that our brains naturally do.

“But isn’t this just a story you’ve created to account for people having different memories of the same event.”

Perhaps that is the point.


Listen, it’s not just me; a lot of scientific research has been done about this topic. You could go to the library and look some of it up.

“Perhaps, I will. Perhaps I will.”

All right then, see you next week?

“Wouldn’t miss it. See you then!”

4 responses to “What About Editing?”

  1. Very cool viewpoint. Anytime we interact with other people, we’re in third person mode. We can’t actually know what they’re thinking or what their whole story is unless they explicitly reveal it. We can’t edit exercise editorial control on our present, but we can realize that others are exercising that control in what they do or don’t reveal to us.

  2. Hey Sara, thanks for the comment. I really like your take on editing what we present to the world. I hadn’t really thought of it that way. Thanks!

  3. Hi Chase,

    “People have different memories of the same event.”..this reminds me of conversations I have with friends and/or relatives and we all remember something different about a specific event.

  4. I never thought of life being edited before, what a brilliant way of thinking about it.

    It’s true that we are shaped by stories, and I think the search for meaning is the search for a coherent (‘edited’) story to our lives, and a bigger story to be a part of.

    And we edit ourselves to choose the face that we show to the outside world.