Individual or traditional – Breaking the mould

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Blazing your own trail can be rewarding, but comes with risks. Photo by David Valuja via Pexels (bit.ly/davidvaluja)

If you read enough—screenplays, novels, articles, poetry—your mind can go numb to the sameness of storytelling, whether in subject, structure, narrative style or innumerable facets you no longer see.

As a storyteller, I dread the idea that my work falls into that category, and yet I know some of it does.

The urge, therefore, is to come up with ways to surprise the reader, to give their eyes, minds and souls something they have never experienced before.

We are creatives, so why should we not be creative?

How can I shake things up in my storytelling to dazzle the reader?

What if my characters all spoke in limericks? What if I wrote my action descriptions as music? What if I named my characters using the military alphabet (see M*A*S*H)?

Yeah, what if you did any of those things?

 

Novelty and expectation

The biggest challenge in going with your own style is that it absolutely has to work. There is no middle ground.

Out of the gate, you are going to piss off traditionalists: 1) they expect to read things in a certain way and don’t embrace change easily; and 2) they see your decision not as innovative, but rather as the act of a storyteller wrapped up in his or her ego.

Who are you to think of yourself as above the law?

(Very melodramatic, these traditionalists.)

Even with readers willing to go on a ride, however, you’re going to need to prove that your method is worth the effort, that it brings something to the storytelling experience that a more traditional approach does not or cannot.

In a recent Go Into The Story blog post, Scott Myers looks at how the writers of Wall-E used a very unconventional, almost poetic style for their scene descriptions. Offering examples from the screenplay, Myers shows how simplifying the descriptions allowed the writers to focus on what the heart felt rather than what the eye saw. In the process, they created a very fluid and impactful read.

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Descriptions more poetry than prose. (Wall-E, written by Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon)

Up for the challenge?

So, should you rush back to your manuscript and do the same thing? Or do an equivalent that best suits your specific narrative?

The answer to those two questions is unfortunately two other questions.

Is there an appropriate equivalent? And can you pull it off?

Even if there is an alternative way to present your story, you may not yet be ready to effectively execute it.

Your writing skills may yet require some seasoning until you can effectively pull off non-traditional approaches to storytelling.

Alternatively, you may be approaching this challenge with the wrong (I hate to use that word) mindset; that you’re seeking novelty for the sake of novelty and not because it will enhance the power of your story.

That said, if you really want to try something new, if you really want to challenge yourself, then go for it.

 

Go for it

Nothing is permanent. Versions can be saved. You can always retell the story in a more traditional manner.

Even if it doesn’t work, you have improved your storytelling skills for the experience.

And ultimately, to counter my earlier point about others’ reactions, most of us tell stories because we have a passion for storytelling. The business of storytelling is secondary.

I welcome and encourage you to continue to explore that passion, both for your own happiness and because that is how you will create the truly remarkable.

 

To learn more about effective storytelling, as well as the power of story analysis and story coaching, visit:

So, What’s Your Story? (web site)

So, What’s Your Story? (Facebook)

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Lives of love and beauty – Piper

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Piper Lisseveld: mother, daughter, blogger, experientialist

I first met Piper as one of the hockey wives in Northern Virginia, our respective spouses at the time playing for the Fairfax Lightning. And from the first time we met, it was clear that she was alive in every sense of the expression.

Despite only seeing each other on rare occasions, Piper is sure to be a constant in my life and ironically, each of us started new adventures in living around the same time, each leaving behind the lives that largely defined us to embrace the exciting unknowns of the world.

Piper is possibly the freest spirit I have ever met, finding joy and love and laughter in every moment possible, and sharing same with those around her. She is a rocket that will intersect your life and leave a contrail of love across your heart.

Thanks, Piper, for sharing your universe with me.

 

See also:

12 Days of Gratitude – Piper

Pipe’s Adventure: Living for Happiness (blog)

Step up to a breathtaking view

Montmorency Falls

Taller than Niagara, the Falls carve into the countryside

Less than half an hour from Quebec City by car, Montmorency Falls offers not only a spectacular view of a natural wonder, but several opportunities to actively participate in that wonder.
After paying $12 to park your car (or park outside before the gate and pay nothing), you quickly come face-to-face with the white wall that is the falls, plunging 83 m (272 ft)—higher than Niagara Falls—to join the St. Lawrence River. (Several tour bus lines also visit the falls.)
Upon entering the tram station and gift shop area, you have the option of paying another $12 to take the tram to the top of the escarpment ($14 round-trip) or wandering along a bridge and path to the base of the falls where you are bathed in spray. Here, you are faced with the question of whether you want to climb 487 steps and save yourself some money.
This is not for the weak-of-the-knees, although there are several rest areas along the climb to catch your breath and take photos. To give some sense of the undertaking, I am about 280 lbs but walk quite often, and I was winded and my legs tired upon reaching the summit, but quickly recovered.
Once at the top, you walk along a short trail to reach the bridge that spans the top of the falls with the river on one side and a sheer drop on the other. From here you have a spectacular view of the falls and even Quebec City, and I am happy to report that the bridge is very sturdy, placating those of us who fear heights.
A recent addition to the falls is a dual zipline that allows those brave few to slide right across the face of the cascade. I got nauseous simply watching other people experience the adventure.
And when you get back down to the bottom—my friend and I took the tram down—you can check out the small gift shop and snack counter. Given the stair climb, we think the site is really missing out on an opportunity to market “I survived” t-shirts.
The experience is definitely worth the trip out of town and will give you something to talk about for quite some time (especially if you climbed those ruddy stairs).

Dream snatcher

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The other day, I engaged in the following conversation on Twitter:

Him: There are a lot of tweets directed towards aspiring filmmakers telling you to “never quit” and “follow your dreams.” That’s terrible advice.

Him: If you met some guy and he said he wanted to be a professional NBA player would you immediately suggest he follow his dreams and never quit?

Me: If that’s where his happiness is, then yes, I would. Who am I to call down his dreams? Would in fact offer to help.

Him: Attention anyone in the world who is looking for someone to help them become a professional basketball player.

Me: If you never try, how will you ever know what you might accomplish? Why live by someone else’s thoughts on what is feasible?

I understand his point.

So often, people express a desire to become something or someone without a good understanding of what it takes to do that. And in a subset of these situations, the aspiring individual isn’t willing to put in the requisite work to overcome their ignorance or skill-set shortcomings.

I’ve known several people who upon seeing how much joy writing brings me express a desire to write. And then do nothing about it. And unlike the professional NBA player quest described above, writing simply requires a computer or pen & paper. And yet, many of these people refuse to write.

But even knowing this, even if I had complete clairvoyance to a future of procrastination or frustration and agony for them, does this give me the right to tell them they shouldn’t try? I don’t feel that it does.

Despite my conversational counterpart’s sarcastic response (I assume it was sarcasm), I am happy to help anyone become a professional basketball player, if that’s what they want. I have no idea what skills I could possibly bring to that quest, but hell, we all need support to follow our dreams.

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You don’t have to be an expert in a subject to help someone.

You can help them better understand what they’re attempting so they can make informed decisions. You can offer a couch or spare room if they need a safe haven. You can cook a meal or several for them when money is tight. You can cheer at their successes and offer a shoulder in times of frustration or disappointment.

And most importantly, you can let them know that success or failure—whether internal to them or measured by external yardsticks—has absolutely no impact on whether you will be there for them.

To all of my friends and to people I have yet to meet in life, pursue your dreams with everything you have, make your life choices knowing that I will be there to help you in any way I can.

And do your best to ignore the dream snatchers who think they are doing you a favour by talking you out of your dreams.

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And if you’re tired of watching me live my dreams, check out the blog of a friend of mine who has started living her dream life: Pipe’s Adventure.

Free fall update

Free fall

With a pretty steady acceleration of about 9.8 m/s2 and a consistent headwind coming from below, I am happy to report that my free fall through the universe remains largely unchanged from my last check-in.

The ground remains nowhere in sight although recent episodes of blue-shifting suggest it is down there somewhere. Otherwise, the view continues to be spectacular, if a tad blurry.

The best movie metaphor I can offer for my journey thus far is a mashup between Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is as though I combined Indiana’s leap from the lion’s head over the yawning chasm with Dave’s journey into the monolith to find it full of stars. (My journey’s been full of actors, some of whom will one day be stars.)

When I stepped off the cliff in May 2012, I could not see the bottom. That there was even a bottom to be seen was pure conjecture. In some respects, that may have made it easier to step off. Ironically, not seeing what awaited me was less frightening.

As I fall—which I don’t see as a negative expression—I have come to realize that I care less and less about my potential destination. Instead, I am enjoying the freedom of soaring in whatever direction takes my fancy (falling is just soaring on a downward bias).

And in my journey, I am meeting an endless array of interesting people. Some are also soaring, while others are flailing in resistance. And still others have convinced themselves they are stable and stationary. Whatever floats their sense of well-being.

The forecast for tomorrow is a continued breeze with periodic pockets of turbulence in a sea of exhilaration. Can’t wait.