The Power of a Story

Powerful Photograph

Photos can be poignant, powerful, or precious glimpses of a moment in time. Each one tells a story. Usually, the story is more than the caption you might see. Far more. If you were to browse through “75 Iconic Photos,” you will agree. The picture above is only one of them.

What observations do you make as you see a photo? What questions rise? Do you see fear on the woman’s face? I see joy mingled with something else. Is it hope perhaps? And what about the soldier whose face we see most clearly? Wonder? Respect?

Some photos strike us with a sense of irony, or even indignation and ire. Sometimes a photo does nothing more than make you smile. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

In creative writing, we can try to make our stories like a picture. A powerful and poignant picture that brings you a sense of wonder, makes you smile, or brings tears to your eyes. A snapshot that invokes a feeling, exposes your emotions or opinions, or opens your eyes to something you have never seen that way before.

This is the power of a photograph, and it is the power of a story.

A short story is also like a scene rather than the whole movie playing. Think about some of your favorite scenes in movies. Scenes that caught the essence of a movie somehow.

The character William Wallace shouting “Freedom” at the end of the movie Braveheart. If you did not see the rest of the movie, you would know that he was a man willing to die for what he believed, and you would probably have a feeling of satisfaction, as well as a wish that you somehow knew more about the story, more about that person.

Or Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society, standing on the desk and telling his students about seeing life from a different perspective. He urges the class, “We must constantly look at things in a different way.” That scene catches the essence of the movie. You see a teacher fully engaged with his students, urging them to step out of the confines of what they see and know wand embrace life. You see the faces of students responding, with wonder, disbelief, desire. You know, intrinsically, that he will change their lives.

That is the power of a scene. The power of a story. Or it can be, if we know how to write it right.

[Reposted from Clovis Adult Education Blog]


NaNoWriMo Day 30

NaNoWriMo Day 30

Words Written on Day 29: 4,700

Total Words Written for NaNoWriMo: 32,781

Rounding the final bend as far as time. Finish line not quite in sight although the timer is about to ring. Maybe I’m more of a marathon runner than a sprinter.

But it has been an interesting journey this past month, with a few lessons learned and a few friends gained.

A couple things I’ve learned on the NaNoWriMo journey?

1. You can’t force inspiration.
On days when the creativity refuses to flow, I can polish things already written or fill in the gaps, but on certain days, forcing my brain to come up with something amazing just doesn’t happen.

2. No plan is fool-proof, but it’s still a good idea to make one.
I didn’t make a writing plan this month. With a full college schedule (and nearing the end of the semester), a variety of editing jobs, as well as other priorities, it was difficult to make any sort of comprehensive plan for writing. But you know what they say about general goals without specific plans to back them up. (And if you don’t, just google “awesome quotes about setting goals … you’ll get the idea.)

3. The best stories take a while to tell.
Some people might beg to differ, but for the most part, it’s true. A storyline I have been working on (obviously not actively) for the past 10 years is the most complex story I have. As it has been slowly developing over a long period of time, I keep getting new ideas and nuances and details about the characters. I’m very excited about the prospect of writing it (hopefully early next year).

And of course, the very best story is only in its beginning page. Perhaps only in the title page … it’s hard to say. But as we are all characters in the vast and overarching tale, the decisions we make, the part we choose to play, and the stories we tell in the great telling, all make a difference in that Story.

The Greatest Story Ever Told.

NaNoWriMo Day 13

NaNoWriMo Day 13

Words Written on Day 12: 1,182

Total Words Written for NaNoWriMo: 15,184

The self-doubt started up today with a vengeance. It has been trailing behind me and whispering along the edges of my mind since the beginning of the month, but now it is no longer hiding in the shadows.

“It’s a terrible story line.”

“Your characters are flat. They have no personality.”

“You’ve written yourself into a corner. Where are you going to go now?”

“You’re never going to finish 50,000 words by the end of the month, and if you do, they’ll be the lamest thing you ever written.”

You get the point, I’m sure. The only thing I can really do right now, I believe, is just to write through it. Prove the debilitating thoughts wrong by … well, proving them wrong. By writing. By finishing. By writing my way out of that corner. By working with my characters and listening to them tell me what and who they want to be … and letting them follow the paths they create in my mind. By taking any ideas of plot development as far as it goes just to see where it will take me and whether or not it “works.”

I don’t know how the story is going to turn out. And I don’t have a whole lot of time to think about it either, which is a little bit scary. It’s like ad-libbing (and anyone who knows me knows that isn’t my strong point).

But scary is also exciting. It gives you a rush. Like standing on the edge of a cliff. You see the horizon before you. Feel the wind around you. Whipping your hair. Letting you know you’re alive. Enticing you forward.

And you wonder if you’ll fly or if, like Indiana Jones, ground will appear beneath your feet. One step at a time.

Always one step at a time. But one step is enough.

Writing a Novel