Category Archives: storytelling

Tell Me a Story

Tell me a story
with a happy ending
with lots of adventures in between
with love and laughter
and averted disaster
and pictures I can see.

Tell me a story
and I’ll tell it again
in moments small
in snatches of time
tell me of your days gone by
so I can be there too.

Tell me a story
of the places you’ve been
the people you knew
the troubles you’ve had
how you made it
how you didn’t
how you lived to tell the tale.

And when you’re tired
your stories all told
your days full
your life calm
you’ll ask for my stories
and when you do
I’ll have them waiting for you.

I’ll tell you a story
with a happy ending
with lots of adventures, today, yesterday,
with love and laughter
and averted disaster
and plot twists all the way.

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Ink Runs Dry

When the ink runs dry
the stories have been told
the thoughts written down
the loose ends tied

there’s more to life
than a book and a pen
there’s more to stories
than writing them down

this is why writers have to get up and live
feel their stories
make their own choices
be fearless like heroes
be a little bit mad
and see what others don’t see

get up and look.
leave the desk and go live.
write every day
but not every day
if life deserves to get in the way.

The stories will stay with you
draw your hand to the pen
but don’t force it
not today
let the ink
run dry.

Discovering Your Career

It can take years of adult life before an individual realizes what they’re really good at. Years! Since I’ll be applying to graduate programs in a number of months, I’m inclined to speed up that process.

I’ve found that passionate interest can be very hard to tell from practical talent, and when pursuing a career, talent (more than passion) is what counts. Passion is a prerequisite to talent, and acts as the necessary motivation to devote time and effort toward an activity. However, the presence of passion doesn’t necessarily indicate the presence of skill.

Take for instance my three years of competition in speech and debate. What got me started in the league was my passionate interest in oral interpretation, a form of storytelling and acting. I also experimented with debate out of curiousity. As the years went by, my interps never ranked very highly (though I loved performing them). Debating, however, was another story—I consistently ranked higher as my skill level rose. Despite my own bias towards interp, dispassionate panels of judges helped me realize where my strongest talent existed.

The ingredients of speedy self-discovery seem to be experience, second opinions, and (to a lesser degree) contemplation. When all these components come together, it’s hard to ignore the boundaries separating talent from pure passion.

Natural Enemies: Creating Conflict

top20superscenes-darkknightinterrogation-590Every story needs clash, whether it’s a grand battle of good vs. evil or the more nuanced everyday confrontations when opposing forces collide.

The best stories, in my opinion, blur the line between good and evil. The bad guy is so relatable that you care for them against your better judgement, and the good guy occasionally makes you dislike them. How can a writer accomplish this, and write convincing clash?

First of all, start with two people who are fundamentally different from each other. (Whenever two people are different enough, clash arises.) Pair natural enemies. Think of the classics:

Luke Vader SnipRebel vs. Dictator—Luke and Vader.

Criminal” vs. Policeman—Jean Valjean and Javert.

Order vs. Chaos—Batman and the Joker.

But also think about real-life natural enemies, where it’s harder to tell who’s the good guy.

Environmentalist vs. Third-world Poacher.

Fundamentalist vs. Liberal.

Partier vs. Studier.

Starting with ingredients like these—two opposing forces that can’t coexist until someone changes—is a great way to generate an entertaining and meaningful story.

Your Character from a Distance

I’m shortsighted. I first donned glasses in third grade and they’ve only been getting thicker since. The glasses work pretty well, but at a certain distance away, things start to get fuzzy. That’s when I can’t identify people by their faces anymore.

When I’m walking across campus between classes, I start to rely more on other 248_e_e_walking_1600recognizable features to identify people I know. Gait. Hair color. Body size. Clothes. Any defining feature that’s more visible than those subtle facial details we’re all so miraculously talented at recognizing.

I have to pay a bit more attention to these non-facial attributes than most folks, because of my short eyesight. It’s really very interesting, the differences I get to see in people. What does a gait mean? There’s the basics of walking faster or slower depending on your rush, but everyone has a different default speed and style. Bouncy, twitchy, wobbly, solid, labored or energetic . . . a gait is just one aspect of a person’s style of movement. What does the body language mean? A storyteller (or anyone, actually) could go wild imagining interpretations of these everyday clues.

“…I could tell from the way his fingers moved that his favorite color was green.” –Siri Keeton (Peter Watts), Blindsight

How do you tell who someone is from a distance? You’re only seeing an abstracted version of who they are—a simplified, distilled version, still filled with evidence of personality. Think on this, all you storytellers out there, as you get to know your character. Take 5 minutes now, and find out how your character walks, moves, and the meaning underneath. Draw on your life experience interpreting body language. Show me your character from a distance, in the comments section below!

Make Time for Great Stories

As a college student, I don’t have a lot of spare time. Every now and then, I’m hit by the jolting realization that I’ve let my storytelling fall by the wayside. I haven’t been writing as much as I want to.

These moments of realization are never really moments. They’re long points in time: a few days, a few weeks, when I feel ready to write on a moment’s notice. I started wondering to myself, what exactly prompts this urge to write? Something had to be inspiring me.

Now I know what it is. Experiencing a great story is what makes me want to write and create. It’s what reminds me why I do it all—sit typing for hours upon hours, careful editing, trying to figure out who my characters really are. I try to make magic because I’ve experienced it through someone else’s work.

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These points of inspiration come when I happen to watch a great movie or find a wonderful new novel, stories that suck me in and make me forget where I am. As a busy college student, I encounter these moments of wonder accidentally, but now I think that it’s important to seek these things out. Keep looking for great stories, be they books, TV shows, movies, podcasts, blogs. Anything that draws you in and rekindles your sense of wonder, and leaves you wanting desperately to give back. That’s inspiration. That need to give makes writing as easy as it ever gets.

Make Your Story Real: Hinting at Secrets

We are all detectives.

When I meet a new person, I immediately begin gathering clues about them. The process starts with a first impression and continues as long as we interact. I watch their actions, listen to their words, judge their reactions, and try to piece together the hidden inner world of that person. I get to know them.

The longer I know a person, the better I can interpret body language clues and guess their inner state. Sometimes I may even be able to predict their reactions. But no matter how well I know a person, there will always be surprises and more mysterious clues to decipher. No one acts reasonably all the time, and no one perfectly fits into a mold. Sometimes there may be no answer, but we still want to understand.

mystery_person

Every human being has hidden complexity in their inner world, something their friends can only guess at through interpreting secondary clues. When you write a story, make it more realistic by imitating this hidden complexity. Drop clues that indicate there’s more to uncover, even (and especially) if there’s no clear interpretation of these clues. Humans are meaning-makers, and we’ll still try to understand. Your readers will try to solve the unsolvable, just as each of us does in real life.

Hint at secrets. Why did he frown when she asked about his girlfriend? Why does she hate the smell of coffee? Why won’t he speak about his past?

We are all detectives, and we want to know more.