Week 2: Storytelling
Storytelling is a life saver
Storytelling is the art of conveying a narrative or series of events through spoken or written words, images, or other forms of media. At its core, storytelling is a fundamental human activity that has been used to communicate ideas, share experiences, and connect with others for thousands of years.
Storytelling can take many forms, including oral traditions, books, movies, television shows, plays, and more. In its simplest form, storytelling involves a storyteller who creates a narrative that engages and captivates an audience. The narrative may be based on true events, fictionalized accounts, or a combination of both. The storyteller may use a variety of techniques to bring the narrative to life, including character development, setting, plot, dialogue, and descriptive language, all of which we'll cover over the ensuing weeks.
Storytelling is an essential part of human communication, and it can help us better understand the world around us, connect with others, and explore complex ideas and emotions. It's an anthropological need that protects us from danger. Imagine living with early man, and an elder comes back from a near-death experience. As he tells his story, he’s showing the clan where the danger lies and how to avoid or overcome it. In the video (below), I mention Lisa Cron's book Wired for Story, which provides excellent insight into how and why we tell stories as she goes into deeper detail than I do here.
The video this week starts with a story, a character (me), and multiple complications. Each book I discuss started with questions. I envisioned a character placed in a familiar setting the moment before everything falls apart. Then I asked questions. Those questions help to develop the story, but how to start?
Start with a hook. Grab the reader's attention with an opening line that is intriguing, unusual, or attention-grabbing. My favorite opening line is from Colleen Hoover’s novel Verity: “I hear the crack of his skull before the spattering of blood reaches me.” We'll go into deeper detail about openings in Creative Writing 102, but today, I want you to start simply. With an opening line, paragraph, or page.
Your prompt this week is to begin a story in the middle of a climactic moment such as a fight, conflict, or in Hoover’s case, an accident. This shouldn’t be random, but should relate to the chain of events that set the story in motion.
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Cindy Skaggs is the author of nine books, multiple creative nonfiction essays, memoir, and short fiction. She teaches undergraduate and graduate writing.