Are we too impatient to write and too impatient to read?
In our culture we want things quick, short and to the point. That doesn’t work well for fiction writers. Fiction readers may still want a book with depth, character development, rich descriptions, fully developed thoughts and a storyline. However, that takes time to write. Time to craft, plot and rewrite.
A writer gets an idea for a story. It can be written out in a few sentences, just enough for them to come back to later and flesh it out. Or, those few sentences can be shared as they are, instant gratification. The reader will have the idea, but not the story. Would they have taken the time to read it anyway?
I’ve been reading older books, written in the 1800’s. I can see a different writing style in them. Different cultures, different readers and different writers give a book the flavour of the time period it was created in. The story telling is influenced by the culture of the times.
This can work against the story, the book. Some of them are a lot of reading with old fashioned words I have to look up in the dictionary, or just ignore and assume I have the general idea. Descriptions can be endlessly long, at least they seem that way to me, reading them now. The story may wind far off track and give a lot of information which seems unimportant to me, as a modern reader of the old tale.
How will our books seem to future cultures? Even now, in our own time, how much of the richness and depth of the story are we losing?
Don’t think it’s just readers who expect a short story. How often as a writer have you cut things shorter? How often have you not had the patience to let an idea grow and evolve before posting or publishing it? We get an idea and push it out there. We rush our stories. We cut our stories down to size, not just because readers are less likely to read them, but we ourselves are less likely to write them. Move on to the next quick post, the next idea, the next project rather than let the current one take up too much time.
This was a short post. Did you read it all, or skim most of the way looking for bolded text to sum it all up?
Everyone hits a blank now and then. Don’t get impatient with yourself. Take a quick break, make yourself another coffee, start a load of laundry or walk around the block once or twice. Then come back and use one of these to give your post a fresh start:
- Use a statistic you find somewhere. Look for a surprising statistic, something unexpected or controversial.
- Share something from your personal experience. Work on your storytelling.
- Ask a question. The best questions are those which are sincere, something you really do want to know.
- Write a description. Don’t forget all the 6 senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Share your vision.
- Write a critique or review of something. Be honest and fair.
- Rant about something. Throw your passion into it.
- Use a metaphor, an analogy or a simile – remember your high school English classes and get clever.
Can you write a memoir in six words? Try it at Six Word Memoir on Smith Mag.
SMITH Magazine is a home for storytelling. We believe everyone has a story, and everyone should have a place to tell it. We’re the creators of the Six-Word Memoir project.
What would your memoir be? Try a few yourself and pick which works best. Here are some of mine:
Lonely girl grows up, gets bigger.
Wandering among words not finding one.
Begins with dragons ends with wings.
The end was just the beginning.
Words read, written. Words on stone.
Create a cookbook of favourite family recipes and give everyone a copy. – This came from Homemakers print magazine (one of the ads actually). I think it’s a great idea. Not just for the women in the family, or the children who inherit the traditions of the family but for the daughters and sons in law too. Each family get together people could add a new recipe to the book, make enough copies for everyone to add the recipe to their own books when they get home again.
My Grandfather’s sister (Alvena) was said to make the best chocolate fudge and other goodies. She would never share her recipe with anyone. Now it is gone along with her. I think about that at times. What a shame it is that something like that couldn’t be passed on so that Alvena’s amazing fudge could still be made and eaten today.
What recipe would you add to the cookbook first? How would you put the cookbook together, give it a cover design and an index by type of recipe or by which person contributed the recipe, which family it came from originally. This can be a great storytelling project (with copies of photos, drawings and personal notes) if you can get enough family together to begin and then record all the stories connected to each recipe.
Think of three ordinary things around the house: can opener, laundry soap, remote control, last year’s calender (useless stuff counts too). Now pick one and write about why you have it, what it does and how/ where you keep it. Make it sound interesting! Why did you buy that one? Does it work well? Have you found a creative and yet practical way to store it? Did you have to repair it? Does it smell nice? Exercise your storytelling spirit.
What the ear does not hear cannot move the heart. — Cape Breton saying
March 25th I am attending a local Storytelling workshop. I’m looking forward to it and I really like Joanne, the woman who does the workshop. Today I looked up storytelling to find out a bit more and see what we might be doing in the workshop, just curious. There are a vast amount of resources for storytelling online.
From Wikipedia: Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, images, and sounds often by improvisation or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture and in every land as a means of entertainment, education, preservation of culture and in order to instill moral values. Crucial elements of stories and storytelling include plot and characters, as well as the narrative point of view.
Storytellers of Canada
National Storytelling Network (USA)
International Storytelling Center
Society for Storytelling (UK)
Professional Storyteller Network
World Storytelling Day is March 20th. Great timing for my workshop.
Digital Storytelling and Digistories