Thursday, 30 August 2012

It's Thursday..

...and I'm thinking out loud. Last week the comments flew and the chat was fascinating. Think we can do it again? I do. Today I'm thinking about storytelling .

and this is what I've come up with

- That whole beginning, middle, end thing? Writers talk about it because it works. But that doesn't mean you have to write the beginning first. I think you can start anywhere you feel comfortable.

- Tiny details matter. Think back to a great story you have loved. What do you remember about it? Buttons like blackberries, or a creaking gate. .the little things. We need to keep this stuff in our stories! Small counts.

- As do individual moments. (think back to the quote from the knitting book in Tuesday's post). Even in the big we have to find the small. We don't, we can't remember the whole of a big day. Ask me about my wedding day and I might tell you about the bright confetti fluttering to the cork tiles on the bathroom floor as I changed out of my going-away outfit. It's not a lot; but it's good. maybe you don't need more? Little details..

Trying to tell the whole story - a page which originally appeared in the very first edition of Scrap365

Blog posts or stories?  are they two different things? I think we push the blog post boundary with Storytelling Sunday, and I like it. It works, I hope, because we all come expecting a story, or more. We're ready to settle in and read. We aren't looking for a quick fix blog post. We stop skimming and start reading. The everyday blog post challenge, then - and the journaling challenge, too - is to stop skimmers and pull our readers in. Do you think?

So better stories make better pages (though maybe that's a whole new topic..). And if good stories make good pages - how do we find good stories? Practice. The older I get, the more I realise I spent a lot of years undervaluing the practice of practice. If I couldn't do it right away I didn't want to know. Sounds ridiculous now. Now, I like working towards something. And there are books to help with working towards storytelling. I love Marion Roach Smith's "The Memoir Project", which I've written about before. And a new favourite is Natalie Goldberg's "Old Friend From Far Away". If you like Ali Edwards 31 Things class I think you'll like this. When I get a minute I go on Amazon and browse "customers who viewed this also viewed..". It's a good way to put together a book list. So, would you? do you? read books about writing?

..and another from Scrap 365's first issue, working to get lots of words on the page

So, how do you tell your story? How many words do you need? Maybe we'll get to find out on Storytelling Sunday. I hope so! The theme, if you need one, is Too Cool for School . And if you don't need one - excellent! Hit us with anything at all! As always. newcomers very welcome. Show us your story!

Your turn now - any thoughts before you go? Any topics you think we should be talking about? Tell you what, how about an ask-me-anything edition for next week. Ask me anything and I'll give you a ranom-ish answer. How about it?


helena said...

thought provoking as ever. I'll confess to finding the very broad use of the word 'story' in the scrapping world challenging. I think my English teachers were too successful in ingraining the idea that a story is narrative - that something has to happen rather than 'just' being a description. I'm trying to reprogram my brain with the idea that a story is 'data with a soul' (Brene Brown from Ordinary Courage) as that appeals to my ananlytic side.

Amy said...

Ahh, and now in Australia, Federal Ministers are holding special Q&A sessions with social commentary bloggers when they release new policy - not just the political bloggers ... how's that for an interesting can of worms?! Talk about a minefield of PR spin, reaching the ordinary voice and a lack of detailed specialist analysis all thrown into one.

I have not once thought of StS as pushing blog boundaries, I have always seen it as the perfect compliment as most blogs I read are online scrapbooks or diaries.

Details and individual moments are the core of my scrapping. Better stories making better pages, well the pages are the pages and they are personal - but, better stories make better blogs. It touches on last weeks topic of the inspiration overload, a visually pleasing blog with an interesting tale is going to attract my attention.

Fiona@staring at the sea said...

Another interesting topic for discussion Sian. I've not read any books on writing and often struggle with putting my story into words for StS. I'm certainly not a natural writer. My starting point is almost always a photo and I don't necessarily go with the theme. My favourite 'story' was the one about my engagement ring and that was just a couple of sentences. In fact I think it is one of my favourite ever blog posts. Thankyou for encouraging us all to write our stories and making us feel welcome no matter what format they take x

Alana said...

Two sides of the story debate from me. As an educationer for primary school age I see the rigid structure for story telling. Sometimes it's re telling the story in their own way or what happens next type story telling. Plan, read back, improve and then read back and improve again is the mantra. Thank god for laptops:) As for me I just think of story to tell, usually a small detail within a much larger tale. Be it scrapping, journalling or blog post I think I pretty much tell it like a conversation, as if my readers are with me and we ate having a chat. I hope it comes across that way anyway. Do I plan, check and improve....of course, I'm a TA, we strive to do our best....and I'm rubbish at spelling:))))

Alana said...

.....I can't check and improve on my itouch though as my fat fingers press the wrong keys and 'done' before I realise my mistakes:) ate =are:)))

scrappyjacky said...

Much food for thought, Fiona I'm not a natural storyteller and often don't take part in STS....though I always love reading everybody else's stories.
I've never read any books on writing....and don't think I want to...but I do do the same as you on Amazon....mainly with craft books.

Sian said...

Oh, good, more stuff to chat about :)

Helena: You’re right. I think there is a distinction between “story” as scrapbookers understand it and “story” as a short story writer would. Maybe what we should really be saying is “memoir” - description is very powerful in memoir.

What I really meant was pushing the boundaries of blog structure. Everything we read about blogging tells us to use bullet points, use short sentences, keep to one point and so on and so on – but the STS stories very often don’t fulfil those criteria at all. Some are very long, packed full of detail and could be great as chapters in a book of memoir: not often what we see in an every day blog post (yes, I know, there should be no such thing as an every day post, each one should be special but you know what I mean!)

Fiona: I love your comment
because I’m firmly convinced that a story can be very short indeed. You’ve probably heard of the most famous example – Ernest Hemingway’s “For sale. Baby shoes: never worn.” That’s the whole story...

Barbara Eads said...

I'm all about the story in my scrapbooking and the classes I teach. But the story doesn't always have to be long---or even a story. Sometimes, the title can say it all. Recently, I had to do a page with a "Q: in the title. I used vacation photos of us lounging on the beach for "Quite Contented." The title said it all and was the perfect pairing for those photos. Other times, the story is the most important thing and the photo is just supporting material. It's all good!

Deb @ PaperTurtle said...

I've always loved creative writing from early on. I remember looking forward to writing assignments in school when everyone else was groaning about it. When I started my blog the thing I liked most was the opportunity to share a photo and tell a story about it - it became a digital diary and scrapbook of sorts.

I love that you encourage bloggers to tell a story, Sian. So many times I think that people hold back because they aren't completely comfortable with the writing process - much like my former classmates. But sometimes it doesn't matter HOW you tell it, but rather that you DO tell it.

humel said...

Oh, yes - you've reminded me that one of the strongest memories I have of my wedding day was that my Nan threw birdseed instead of confetti, and a lot of it went down the front of my dress and got stuck there! I was picking it out throughout the reception!

I love that stories can be told in so many different ways, and so there is no 'wrong' way. Sometimes it's good to deliberately set out to tell it from a different perspective, or even get someone else to tell it from their own' sometimes it's good to tell it your 'usual' way, as part of finding your own voice; sometimes it's good to do both... But yes, practice definitely helps. We can't expect to be experts straight away, who is in anything? But if we don't make a start, don't try it at all, then we certainly won't get any better than we are now.

I feel a need to get out my notebook...

Fiona@staring at the sea said...

Yes, I do know that Hemingway story. It's very moving, which in 6 words is quite an achievement. I seem to remember Mel using it as her inspiration one Storytelling Sunday.
I've yet to find my 'voice' I think, but it's fun trying different ways of putting the story out there.
I've put the tutorial for the gift card holder on my blog today, now that was a completely different exercise in writing!

Maria Ontiveros said...

I love telling and writing stories. For me, I think it's all about cadence. Because I think that's the best way for me to create an emotional connection. And that cadence is most important in the beginning and ending of a story. But also in the middle. I'm never satisfied with my storytelling sunday posts until I feel like I have the beginning and ending "right." And most of the times I feel pretty good about the middle, too.

Maria Ontiveros said...

Back again now that I've read the other comments. I didn't realize that blog posts were supposed to be short and bullet-pointed! I guess I'm glad I haven't read that advice (LOL!).
Also, one of the best journaling classes ever was one that Shimelle did (was it "A Thousand Words" maybe?). Really great prompts, and I think I did some of my best story writing in response to that class.

Maria Ontiveros said...

Back for one last, last time (LOL):
The Shimelle class was True Stories. The thing I would like is to see your studio "high in the sky." Have you ever shared pictures of your workspace? If so, I don't remember.

Ifa said...

Thoughtful! I agree that a good LO starts with a good story but a good story needn't start as a good can definitely work it! A scrapbooker needs to stay away from layouts titled Dream, smile and as such for a start.

alexa said...

Gosh, too many things in here to respond to in a single comment! And your pages are rich in colour and layers too - just like your thinking. :)

Anonymous said...

Loving these Thursday posts of yours, Sian, but work means that I rarely have time to do anything but skim and then run from blog posts, unfortunately. I find myself with so many thoughts in my mind, having read this post, that a considered, intelligent, reply could take me all afternoon to I'll opt for the quick, but heartfelt, compliment, that I adore your LOs - always have - but have especially loved seeing how your style has, you, are an inspiration.........thank you xxx

Scrappi Sandi said...

I love both reading & writing stories. I am probably guilty of starting with a beginning before moving onto a middle & an end, preferably with good punchline!! But, that said, I do enjoy a book/movie that gets your brain working by presenting scenes in random order (Seven Pounds with Will Smith is the perfect example) & it all still fits together at the end. I also like my LO's to tell astory & they will sometimes have oodles of journalling & other times just a title or maybe a few journaling strips to highlight small details. I have had an ambition to to write a novel for years, have books on how to do it & yet still have just a notebook of scribbled ideas!! Maybe one day?!! For now I'm happy to join in with STS & just tell my family stories through scrapbooking! :D

Melissa said...

What a thoughtful post Sian. I always love coming here & getting my thinking juices going! In fact, I've just finished putting the finishing touches on my post for STS & the Too Cool for School theme, with a little bit different twist. I have found that I am telling so many more of my stories now that I blog them, and I'm telling them in a variety of ways: sometimes theres a beginning, middle, and end . . . and sometimes there just my random recollections all strewn together.

I agree that STS causes us to pause & really read the blog posts!

Louise said...

hmmmm! I've never read books on how to write - and i know i could do with the help lol! Lots here to think about as i think about a story for STS x

JO SOWERBY said...

I have had to read books on reflecting in nursing practice and I have to say they were quite helpful in making me think about the events which happen to you as a health professional and picking it out to find the positives and negatives and then moving forward and how u learned something from it. I think my stories are influence quite alot by those things as well. Much of my blogging is full of emotion and my thought processes commonly just spew out, but I then reflect back on what I have said and how it has been put across. I have read a couple of blogging books and take from them things I feel fit with my style rather than what is right or wrong about blogging. I feel that otherwise I wouldn't be true to myself. I am definately not a short sentences or bullett points person, even when teaching my points went on for a lot of pages :).
I have written and then re-written this Storytelling Sunday because I wanted to get it right, it has flaws still but I love the way it has grown and developed.
Gr8 discussion again Sian. And I'm with Maria, please can we see the High Sky craft room?
Jo xxx

Susanne said...

Oh you've got my mind going again on this one. I do not read books about writing, but I can tell you that as I read more and more books and stories that it's the middle that I care about. Writers are taught to grab us with the beginning and of course we all want to know how a story ends. But, to me, the truly great writers make me appreciate the middle of the story, where things unfold. And, now, of course, I've made myself paranoid about how I've told my story for Sunday. Yikes!! I might have to make it shorter just for insurance.

And as far as not skimming, for blog posts - I am 100 times more likely to read if there is an interesting picture. So in the blogosphere, it's not all just about the words. It's much more like skimming magazines than reading books to me.

Alison said...

Like Rinda, I had obviously missed the advice on keeping blogposts short and bullet-pointed!Another though-provoking post Sian
Alison xx

Sian said...

Ifa, I think that's an excellent point - a great title can say so much.

Sandie, if you wrote a novel, I'd buy it!

s, yes I agree that a picture can be what draws us into a blog post. I think maybe that's one of the differences between a blog post and a story? Lots of fabulous stories have no picture at all

Missus Wookie said...

I read that advice on bullet points and short blog posts and ignored it - for me my blog is a record for me, I love sharing it and seeing replies. Always nice to have someone comment on a page other than 'yeah that's nice Mom' or similar. Enjoy the memes which encourage me to include other bits as well - such as STS plus my two weekly versions.

But definitely work on them being a memoir for me and mine, whilst being careful of what I share as I know Wookie's viewpoint of sharing too much on-line.

I think the pairing of a story and image/photo is what makes scrapbooking so unique in memory keeping. The amount the story is expanded - think Project Life via longer stories can vary but it is all memory keeping.

Lisa-Jane said...

I'm another one who seems to have missed the guidance about keeping blog posts short! I haven't read anything about blogging (despite having both of Shimelle's classes at my disposal) but I am in the process of returning to creative writing with the Open University so I will be reading about writing, if that makes sense! One thing I did notice from my Writing Forum magazine was that the current trend is not to write with a beginning, middle and then the end, but to mix up the time frames. Indeed one author who went back to the BME style was advised against it but she stuck to her guns because she felt it was right for the story and it was. I love the opportunity to tell a story, be it mine or one from my head, or a bit of both!

Abi said...

Oh my, such great discussions! I agree with the beginning, middle and end. I love pushing the boundaries of what is a story and like you sian often find that the end is a good place to start! I also agree on stories bringing people in. As a reader we want to know how the story finishes or what the conclusion is so we read word for word. On a typical blog post we may just skim for a paragraph or a sentence that jumps up and grabs. It's interesting.

I do think though that our photos on posts do much of the storytelling. I can often say things far better through photos than I can through words.

An interesting topic as always Sian! xx

Abi said...

Sorry more thoughts coming to me! I think the difference with STS is that we all go into those blog posts knowing what to expect. We all come ready to read a chapter as it were. Very much like picking up a book. I certainly don't go into STS and skim through because I know that each word in that post will be making up a story. We can get away with the long paragraphs and the essay (in my case) like structure!

I think in every day blog posts, although every word is written with care and love, as a reader we aren't anticipating an ending (or middle or beginning) for that matter. We look for the inspiration, the things that stand out, the interesting comments etc. Therefore it is easier to write in short sentences, bullet points etc because our readers our clicking onto our pages for those smidges of insight- not necessarily a whole story.

That said though I love the idea of breaking out of blog boundaries! Very exciting!

(Sorry, extra long winded waffling post which made sense in my head but didn't quite come down on paper so well!) xxx

Amy said...

I had to come back after reading so many wonderful comments. I particularly agree with S about blog posts needing to be visual and well written to be engaging. I read a couple of blogs where they do not post a photo or picture and I find I skim read those more despite their excellent content.

What I have really enjoyed is seeing how many here treat blogging and StS so differently, many are quite different to me. I read blog posts thoroughly, well, I'll qualify that, if I come and comment on your post I will have read it thoroughly - so, I read quite a few blogs thoroughly. Many participants of StS are blogs I read regularly and I enjoy their posts because I know their style of writing - I suppose I have an expectation of how their story will be presented. It actually makes the reading more enjoyable because I start to understand the stories within the stories and a relationship builds.

I do find I can tell if a blogger has some writing background and/or has read a lot about blog writing - sometimes it is an advantage and sometimes I find it becomes too prescriptive. It can be less engaging on a personal level but easier to read and more visually pleasing.

In a way, it is a little like friendships, you connect with some people more than others - blogging is no different.

Sandie said...

So many thought provoking points in your post and comments, Sian.

Practice does help with any skill. Writing features heavily in my professional work and I have been writing a daily journal page for the past 2 months. These, with story telling and blogging have very different styles of writing and I agree, little details creative a bigger picture. Sometimes less is more. And sometimes more gives just that bit extra. Like good discussion and ideas to think about. Well done Sian. A great post!

Unknown said...

Your thinking out loud posts are the only time I read everyone's comments. It is fascinating to read everyones thoughts which in turn gets my brain ticking over.

If you have ever met me you would call me a chatterbox ... I am always telling stories and trying to draw stories out of my friends. Writing down my stories is a natural extension of this and as a teenager I wrote short story fiction for fun, just for myself (and occasionally for a school assignment). I loved it ... until the Christmas my ever loving, school teacher Aunt bought me a tome about writing. It was confusing, terrifying, and made me fearful of writing and so I stopped. Immediately.

I started writing 'stories' again when I started scrapbooking. They began as 'who', 'what', 'why', 'where', and 'when' lists and slowly progressed from there. I feel that I am finally now back to being 'me' when it comes to writing. I would love to know how to improve my writing but have been too afraid to consider another book. When I am stuck somewhere like a doctors office I will mentally write snippets of a story. Scenes full of description just for entertainment. I know, I'm a bit weird :-) I write too much and my stories could probably do with being shorter (along with this comment!) but I enjoy the process so much I just keep going.

I didn't know that blog posts were supposed to be short/bulleted either. I must have missed that memo somewhere along the way. I say what I want, when I want, and to please myself. As far as I am concerned, only I have to like it! So, that's my two bits worth to add into the mix :-)


Sian said...

Abi - that makes perfect sense! yes, I think you and I are looking at it in the same way :)

I guess the next obvious place to go is to challenge everyone to write a short, snappy bulleted blog post and see how their readers take to it, even see how you like the look of it on your blog. No harm in experimenting!

Sian said...

Oh, I knew there was something else..Amy, one of my greatest pleasures in STS is to encourage everyone like me who has no actual writing experience (unless you count editing the school magazine many years ago!) to get stuck in and let the words flow. That's partly why I throw out book ideas and thoughts in case they grab anyone else too

ComfyMom~Stacey said...

I write fiction differently than I write my blog posts because as others have said, blogs are much more of a visual medium.
Also my blog posts are in my own voice so I use frequent new lines and ellipses and bullet points to visually illustrate that voice, things I would never do when writing my fiction stories. Those conform to the writing standards I was taught in lit class.
And the transition between the two styles is challenging some days.
I loved Ali's 31 Things class. I wrote so much that month and it was such a joy to do it, finding things buried in my mind and surprising myself with how I ended up focusing on the word in ways I hadn't intended when I began.

Wanda said...

For me the start of a story, whether for blogging or scrapping, is usually the title. It's almost as if the few words of the title become a touchstone for the rest of the piece. As I write and edit and then write some more, I remind myself of the title to ensure I don't go too far off target. Of course, there have been times when pages and posts have taken a completely different direction than I originally intended and I've had to change the title to account for that, but the title of a story is definitely the starting place for me.

Karen said...

I'm in the process of catching up with all your blog posts I missed while I was away. This one pulled me right in, and I had to just stop and soak it all up; the comments as well as your inspiring post. I do read books about writing, but here's my problem: I do not practice enough. I'm struggling now to find a new rhythm to my days and to be able to find the time for some new projects, some learning about subjects I'm already deep into, volunteering, and crafting. Now I think I need to add writing practice into the mix! STS has always seemed overwhelming to me although I have loved reading the stories others write. Thanks for such a thought-provoking post.

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