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)

Lives of love and beauty – Robyn

As 2015 came to a close, I took a few days to highlight some of the amazing people in my life; my 12 Days of Gratitude.

Well, we are counting down the final days of 2016, and I am again feeling…well…feelie…and so want to share with you all some of the amazing people I know who epitomize love and joy and beauty, and who have transformed my life.

For those of you who remembered last year’s list, there will be a few overlaps here, but hey, they are that amazing and this is my list!

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Shirt kind of says it all

Robyn Lawson: mother, daughter, blogger, poet

Through our shared friendship with humourist Ned Hickson, I first met Robyn in the blogosphere and immediately felt my life change.

An Indigenous Canadian, Robyn has a passion to explore and share her Native community and roots in all its glories and horrors, more often than not, laying herself bare through her emotional and lyric poetry.

Check out: October Surprises

Robyn is a beautiful spirit who has touched my life in ways that I cannot yet begin to fathom, and remarkably so given that we have never spoken directly (e.g., phone or Skype) or met physically.

Thank you, Robyn, for sharing yourself and your experiences with me.

 

See also: Blog Woman!!! – Life Uncategorized

NeoHuman podcast, starring me

Willis NeoHuman

My friend Agah Bahari is interested in everything, which is one of the things that I love about him.

Not that long ago, he decided to indulge his interests by starting something he calls the NeoHuman podcast (which matches nicely with his NeoHuman blog), inviting many of the interesting people he knows to discuss pretty much anything that comes up.

Well, seems he ran out of interesting people and so he invited me to participate…and we talked about anything: biotechnology, pharma, global healthcare, designer babies, creativity, writing, screenwriting, 9/11, marketing, and the novel he and I are writing about his life.

But my favourite part is the question he asks all his guest, which is roughly:

If you met an intelligent alien life-form, what would you describe as the greatest human accomplishment and as the worst human accomplishment?

Never boring, my friend Agah.

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(Photo stolen with love from Kelly Brienz Showker)

12 Days of Gratitude – Ned

Ned Hickson

I’d like to introduce you to my friend Ned, perhaps the greatest man that I have never met…well, not in person or on the phone at any rate.

A great wit in a world stuck in the Witless Protection Program, Ned is a loving father, husband and friend who not only writes heartfelt humour but also gives of his time to protect his community as a volunteer firefighter. And yet, for as much as Ned gives, you are never left in doubt that he has time and energy for you.

I look forward to the day Ned and I finally meet in person…and likely discover we hate each other’s guts.

P.S. You can follow Ned’s insane perspectives on life on his blog: Humor at the Speed of Life (also the name of his book, available on Amazon)

(Part Six of my 12 Days of Gratitude…because the rest of the news sucks)

12 Days of Gratitude – Piper

Piper

This is my spirit guide and friend Piper, the bracing rush of fresh air that makes the world turn with her vivacity.

No one’s pushover, Piper eagerly embraces everything and everyone the world has to offer and gives a thousand-fold what she receives. You cannot help but smile in the presence of this beauty who warms your cheeks with laughter, your heart with joy and your soul with love.

She is a whirlwind that will make everything else in your life seem dull.

P.S. You can follow Piper on her life journey on her blog: Pipe’s Adventures/Living for Happiness

(Part Three of my 12 Days of Gratitude…because the rest of the news sucks)