I have a two-year-old son. We get through a lot of children’s books.
I’ve found them very enriching. Most of them use the same speechwriting techniques as I do: three part lists, metaphor and rhyme – because they’re designed to be read aloud.
Young men, eager to do a good best man speech, often send me their scripts. I keep an open mind, but I nearly always have to give a long sigh when I finish reading. They describe in tedious detail their life of adventures with the groom. Anecdotes go on for paragraphs.
Most stories need to be reduced to one or two sentences. It’s not easy to get them to pay me money to accept that.
Reading Zagazoo by Quentin Blake, I found the perfect metaphorical structure for a best man speech.
It’s about a couple who ‘shared a passion for making model aeroplanes, dusting and eating strawberry and vanilla ice cream.’
How good is that as a way to communicate the unusual things that bring a couple together?
One day the postman brought them a strange-looking parcel. They unwrapped it together and inside was a pink little creature as pretty as could be.
Over time he turned into a huge baby vulture, its screeches were terrifying.
Then he turned into a small elephant, who knocked over the furniture.
Then he turned into a warthog, who liked to roll in mud.
Then he turned into a small bad-tempered dragon, who set light to the cardigan of an old lady who had come to sell raffle tickets.
Then he turned into a strange hairy creature who kept getting bigger and hairier until one day he became a young man with perfect manners.
Then he made friends with a young lady.
They found they were both interested in motorcycle maintenance, flower arrangement and eating fruit salad.
It was not long before they knew they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.
And when he went back to tell his parents, ‘his parents had turned into a pair of large brown pelicans, who clattered their beaks.’
You could almost read that out as it stands. It would make a brilliant best man speech.