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Tell your story out loud to find your way into writing it

Have you ever had a story or scene to write but struggled with finding a way into it?

I have a friend who’s known for the stories she tells. She’s a keen observer of people and life and has a way of making scenes come alive. By observing her oral storytelling technique, I’ve learned how to find my way into writing scenes and stories.

Storytelling has been used since the beginning of time as a way to process life. Before paper or printing presses existed, stories were told verbally. My friend instinctively adopts the techniques of natural storytelling by creating foreshadowing, suspense, strong images, and closure. When she tells a story, I can tell she feeds off her audience, whether it’s one or several, for cues that her story resonates.

If you’re struggling with how to get into a scene or story, you might try telling it to a friend or two.

While some people say you don’t want to “talk your story out” for fear of losing the energy of it, you might find it could actually be a useful tool if you do it with purpose.

To avoid the trap of losing the story’s energy, be ready to write down significant images that strike you. Ask your friends to be alert for anything sensual, whether it’s a smell, sound, taste or feeling, and to listen for conflict. It also helps if your friends note anything that particularly strikes them. As you tell your story, observe and record moments that elicit reactions from your audience. These reactions are cues that you’ve struck a chord.

When you’re ready to write, take the notes and revisit these images and key moments. Write about the emotion of the events and characters. If you’re capturing true events, think about the images and how they make you feel. Then ask, “why?” What meaning do these moments and memories hold?

As you write and remember, you’ll likely recall more details. If you’re writing a fictional scene, your notes and the act of writing should help you more fully imagine it. This process can help you feel your way into the story and escape the trap of being self conscious or thinking too analytically about what you’re writing.

Because storytelling is such a primitive, instinctual part of who we are and how we process life, talking out your story with purpose seems like a natural part of the writing life.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. If I’m allowed I would like to use your post within mine today.

    May 15, 2013
  2. I also find it incredibly useful to read out loud when editing. When hearing it, it beocmes painful obvious when something is unclear or clunky, much more so than just reading in your head.

    May 16, 2013

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