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Week One: writing a clear narrative
This week’s prompts are at the very end of this post. Please welcome our first guest editor Saalon Muyo who tweets as @saalon and blogs at Saalon Muyo. If you have any questions or need any clarification on today’s topic or prompts, please feel free to begin a discussion in comments.
If you’re here just to hang out, click here for the yeah write #64 hangout grid.
It’s All About You
[dropcaps_default] L [/dropcaps_default] et’s just get this out of the way. This is all about you. Bask in that for a little bit. You don’t have to worry about anyone else’s problems. No one’s going to break in to shout about how they had an experience just like that but oh my god it was even CRAZIER. You’ve got a blank page and all it wants to do is listen to what you have to say. Sounds like therapy without the copay, right? This is going to be fun.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking there’s a catch. Of course there’s a catch. What do I look like, Goodwill?
This is one of those great power/great responsibility deals. You get to say whatever you want, about anything that comes to mind, but unless you’re planning on hiding your therapy-without-the-copay writing in a shoebox somewhere, you’re asking someone else to stop being narcissistic long enough to read it. Unlike the therapist-with-the-copay who’s getting paid to listen to anything you have to say no matter how many tangents, meanderings and narrative dead-ends there are along the way, Your Supportive Audience is hoping you treat their time with care and respect. Blogging is a spectator sport, and your audience wants blood. Er, I mean, they want a well written narrative. Which could potentially involve blood, I suppose.
This is where it gets a little complicated. Our lives? Not exactly a goldmine of clear narratives. Sure, there was that really interesting thing that happened today, but before that happened there were these other slightly less interesting things, like how your cat caught a mouse and left it in your shoe, then the neighbors were fighting so loud you could hear them through the walls, but Jill called while you were trying to listen and that was kind of funny because…
…see where I’m going, here? In the middle of whatever story you’re trying to tell are all these little stories. Those little stories are really distracting. They confuse your sense of what to write and, if you can’t get a handle on them, they’ll confuse your audience. Telling a really good story about yourself means deciding, first and foremost, exactly what that story is. This story is all about you, but what part of you is it about? What was it about this story that stuck with you, that made you desperate to tell it publicly?
Without that core, your story is just an event. Remember getting gotten glossy-eyed reading those Raccoon Chased Into Middle School Air Conditioning Unit stories in the local newspaper? That’s an event. What you’re telling is a story, and stories have a beating heart that a mere event (or series of same) lacks. Before you worry about how to tell a good story you need to find that heart, cutting away everything else in your way. You need to find the this must be told at the expense of all the little details and distracting events.
It’s there. The reason. The little pearl that made this particularly story stick with you. You might be able to unearth it before you start writing, or it might emerge as you start writing what you think the story is. Either way, don’t rest until you’ve found it. Whatever that Reason is, if it compelled you to write, it’ll compel your audience to stick with you when they read it. Find the heart of the story, then mercilessly discard everything else.
Now you’ve got the why. What about the how? Stay tuned. That’s next.
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find the heart of the story
Very very very important, you guys. This is Erica M talking now, by the way. We are going to use the provided prompts as a diving board into your stories. Choose one, then let the prompt lead your brain in and out of 1,000 places. Whatever ripple it creates, that is the story we want to read. Do not under any circumstance use the actual prompt in your story, do not refer to it anywhere in your post, not even as a footnote. The prompt is the entry point for your imagination.
Does the image of thunderstorms remind you of summers on your grandparents’ farm and summers on your grandparents’ farm somehow reminds you of that one summer you spent in Belgium and that one Belgian summer brings to mind that time you got into an altercation at La Guardia with a gate attendant and ended up on the no-fly list? The no-fly story is the one we want to read with nary a raindrop mentioned. For if we end up reading 35 posts on thunderstorms, I will cut somebody, and no one wants that.
Keep your writing style! Do you tell stories with humor? Prose? Verse? Photos? Illustrations? Keep doing that. This is not the time to go all Thomas Pynchon on everybody because that would be perfectly awful.
Have fun! Remember to cut away at everything unnecessary to your story. Everything. I can’t wait to read what everyone comes up with. No more than 500 words. If it’s not ready for prime time today, no worries: link it up Tuesday, Wednesday or by noon EDT [-4 GMT] on Thursday.
Read the summer FAQ page for other details. You’re awesome for being enthusiastically prepared.
The prompts have been graciously provided to us all summer long by Tom Slatin who’s written a wonderful list of 130 journal prompts. He’s asked us to send him the links to the best ones because he’s a great guy and wants to check out your best work.
Choose one. Let your imagination loose. Link up when it’s ready. Don’t forget to badge your post.
- Write about your greatest fear
- Describe a time in your life when everything turned out fine despite the odds
- If you could start your life over from birth, what is the one thing you would change about yourself?
Yeah write #64 summer grid is open…