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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Compelling Storytelling

What makes a story unique and compelling?  I am almost certain that my high school English teacher would say something like "a story, no matter the length, that pulls people in....draws their attention....peeks their interest......has a draw, a catch, and cleverness about it....something unique or novel......"  The originality of a story or the ability to tell a story in quite a "first time", "can't stop reading or put it down manner" is the goal.   Did I succeed at this in my freshman year of private high school?  Well, not exactly.  I was the star Math student if you can believe that.
When it comes to writing, I am again practicing.  I am praciticing on anyone who reads this blog.  I can only imagine the thoughts of my seventh grade teacher reading this and continually critiquing the grammer.  If only I had her to proofread my writing, I'd be in a grand place.   Back in the 1980s, I'd hear my teachers say that most people write at a "seventh grade level".  I believe that they now write at a "TEXT" level.  That's the result of phones and technology.
Back to compelling storytelling.....When it comes to your own family history, anyone or any story can make you feel proud.  I find that any shred of information that tells me what someone was like interests me when the person is my relative.   I even find other people's family trees interesting.  Does everyone find this information interesting when the people are not apart of their own family tree?  The answer is no. 

What I have grown to realize though is that many, many people do find the story of the discovery process of one's family tree interesting.  To watch someone find their family roots and see the excitment and gratification that it gives them, is entertaining.  This is why the show, "Who Do You Think You Are?", is so popular.  The discovery process and the elation (or sometimes disappointment) that follow is interesting.

Are there any compelling stories in my family history that await me or have I already found some?   I hope to someday find out more about the people on my tree including something about their character, personality, and motivations.  Have I already found at least one compelling story?  Why, yes, I think that I have.  Putting the story together in written form to share with anyone who wants to read it is another thing.

Below is an excerpt from an essay about storytelling.........

Perceiving The Foundation of Storytelling
by Bill Johnson
Revised 12/27/98

A storyteller should to be able to perceive what a story is about at its deepest level, and how to move that to a resolution that offers fulfillment to a story's audience. Understand what about the movement of a story engages the interest, the needs of an audience. Such a writer can better perceive how characters, plot devices and POV work to create a dramatic movement of a story toward its fulfillment. How every element of a story works together in its characters, plot, environment and ideas to make vivid and potent a story's world.

That's why I say that at its heart, a story must have an issue at stake that is of consequence to the story's audience. Something the members of the audience will desire to experience in a state of resolution and fulfillment. Love. Courage. Redemption. Renewal. Some issue that revolves around the aching need of humans to feel they matter, that they have a place in the world.

Now, I think that I have a story.  Can I make it compelling?

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