Bent Wrists 11: Crafting Stories

Okay, class!  Zip your lips and crack those bent wrists into shape.  It’s time for another writing lesson.  Today I’m going to talk about STORIES.

Stories are the most fundamental form of communication.  We live by stories—our own and those of others, real or imagined.  It is how we relate and stay connected.  We NEED stories to maintain our balance and identity.  It’s one of our deepest social needs.

Think about it.  We tell stories all the time:  “I went to the store today and…blah, blah, blah.”  “You’ll never guess what so-and-so at work said to me today…”  “Do you know how much gas was today when I filled up the truck?”  Everything we talk about—from the most mundane to the most exhilarating experience—is a story.

Even when we don’t have a story of our own, we tell someone else’s story.  “Susie told me that when she saw Gary at the mall…”  “Mom said that Dad foiled a crime and tackled a drunk man in the church…” and “You’ll never guess what happened to Bob last night….”

Most crimes aren’t solved by detective work, but by someone tipping off the cops—passing on the story they NEED to tell, whether their own or someone else’s.  Stories are powerful…and keeping them locked away inside a secret compartment is close to impossible.

Craft is what we use to create a complete story.  A lump of clay isn’t anything to get excited about; but when crafted and formed into a bowl, it becomes very useful.  So it is with stories.  We tell lots of stories each day without much thought.  When we take a story and begin to craft it with purpose, then Identification takes place.

Identification is why the reader reads & why the writer writes.  We go to stories for this emotional connection, but why?

Remember what I said in the beginning?  We NEED stories to maintain our balance and identity.  Do you have yourself all figured out? Do you know yourself so well that you will never do anything stupid again?

Probably not.  When it comes to knowing ourselves, we are incomplete, lacking, and deficient.  Sorry to burst your bubble…but it’s true.  Each of us is our own ongoing problem until the day we die.  Yippee!

Stories help us piece together our own riddle…solving the vast mystery of who we are.  When we go to a movie and experience the emotions of the characters, we’re experiencing ourselves in a way we couldn’t if we stayed at home.  It’s the same when we read a book and identify with the characters there.

Experiencing others emotions (via stories) puts us in touch with ourselves…expands us in a way we can’t achieve on our own.  When we feel what the characters feel, we feel more of ourselves.  In becoming them, we become more of who we are.  The complete story fulfills us, gives us a sense of closure—completes us, for the moment.

Two great books I’ve read in the last year that show the value of stories in shaping lives, are The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and Icefall by Matthew Kirby.  They have unique formats, switching back and forth between the plot and children’s fairytales (The Forgotten Garden) or Nordic legends (Icefall).  The fairytales and legends told throughout the book actually help the characters make sense of their lives.

I will conclude by giving you HOMEWORK.  (Stop screaming.  It’s not so bad)

Be aware of all the stories you tell each day…and of the stories others tell.  In other words…LISTEN.  (See!  That’s not so bad…is it?)

Then, after you’ve exercised your ears and mind, take time to craft one of these stories into a thing of worth.  (I fear you are hyperventilating between screams now.  Stop being a scaredy-cat)  Whether you are an already published author or someone who doesn’t think they can write jack-squat, put that bent wrist of yours to work  and craft a story.  Even if no one ever reads it, you will learn a LOT about yourself and your world as you become a CRAFTSMAN.

Try it…you’ll like it.  And when you’re finished, call Sears and tell them to donate some Craftsman tools to you since you’re now a certified CRAFTSMAN…and just plain awesome.  Now do your homework!

Char

An excellent writing book is Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver.   It has great ideas to jump-start your story writing.

(Images taken from Microsoft Images and Wikipedia)

19 thoughts on “Bent Wrists 11: Crafting Stories

  1. Although I was not prepared to do homework, there are some relevant point in here that made me go Hmmmm! I like how you narrowed it down to everyone telling stories all day long. That had never occurred to me. Great blog! I will go forth, and listen!

  2. I agree with you that the movies we see and the books we read help us discover our own identities. “What would we do in that situation? How would we cope with that disaster?” Which is why I don’t feel guilty if I just take some time to go to a movie or read, even when there are other things I need to do, because both of these activities help me define myself. Or at least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it…

    Great post!

  3. Even though I didn’t start writing stories until a few years ago, I’ve always loved reading them and listening to them. I can still remember my mother climbing into bed with me and making up stories about all kinds of things—whatever I asked her to tell me about. And sometimes we’d turn it around, and I’d make up the story.

    I will do some listening again! 🙂

  4. Suddenly I have become your student! I like how you explain the idea behind stories. 🙂
    Stories are powerful indeed. Stories can change people’s lives, both the lives of the listeners and the speakers.

    • I agree! This is why I love writing! Stories come alive and help me grow as I nurse them along in my mind and then move them into form on the computer.

      • He nimbled his way up and down the street, even crossed the street a few times to… (well, I’m not sure why the rabbit crossed the road). He’s lucky the street doesn’t have a lot of traffic or he’d probably get runover pretty quickly.

        • I wonder if he was someone’s lost Easter present. We had a floppy eared one out in our front yard one year. I wanted him super bad, but couldn’t catch him. I think my dog scared him.

  5. You’re so right about how stories are found in everything, everywhere we turn. This reminds me of a project I do with my students…I pick 5-10 random objects or words and tell them to put them into a story. Sometimes they use all the prompts, sometimes they don’t use any but a story evolves out of those original prompts.

    It’s a great way to spend a car trip with your kids, too!

  6. Pingback: Icefall by Matthew Kirby | Joy in the Moments

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