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Enriching Your Storytelling



The first draft is the foundation of your story. Now it can be developed into a rich, colorful tale.

My writing is all over the place...

One idea for improving your writing skills is to read your favorite authors with a critical eye. Think about what makes their stories so good. You're not seeking to imitate. Just perhaps incorporate their style into your writing when it's appropriate.

The mantra of many writing teachers is: show, don't tell. An example of telling: 'the girl was sad.' vs. an example of showing: 'tears trickled through the dirt on the girl's sunburned face.' Showing is more descriptive and there's no doubt the girl is sad. The emotions seem more real and compelling.

It's best to use common words. No one wants to frequently stop reading to look up words.

Your story should have a focus. Pick an event, or idea, and stick with it. Then focus on different aspects of your story. Think of how you would photograph the event, say for example at a wedding. You may take a picture of the church, of guests arriving. A picture showing the inside of the church, of the bride walking down the aisle and the happy couple exiting the church. A room full of guests at the reception. Then zoom in on the flower girl so she's alone in your lens looking like a princess in her beautiful sparkling dress. Zoom in again on the groom's father talking about his son as an awkward adolescence. You get the picture. :-)

Going off on an unrelated tangent, no matter how interesting, will confuse the reader and weaken your story. Leave out unnecessary facts. Don't ramble or include irrelevant information. Or separate them into another Story.

How much description is too much?

Be descriptive but don't get carried away. When a description goes on and on, a reader loses interest in the story, maybe forgets what the story is about. Use plenty of invigorating action words (run, jump, swing). Combine a few short sentences into one sentence to make it read smoother.

Many writers (and publishers!) feel stories and/or paragraphs must start with a smart, different angle, what they 'call a hook'. Or they want to 'create a mood' for the story. This often results in long, convoluted sentences that are distracting. One doesn't need tricks to grab the reader. Your story will be compelling in its own right.

What about conversations?

Adding dialogue to your Story is a great way to spice up the user's reading experience. Rather than saying, 'she scolded me', it may be more interesting to know what juicy words were used in that scolding. It's especially appealing to hear colorful dialogue. If a comic is being talked about, it's more pleasurable to hear his or her own words.

Writing dialogue in the accent of the speaker can be tricky. The result can be difficult to understand. If you comment on the way a word is pronounced, besides giving an example of how that person pronounced it, describe the way it's pronounced in your area. If you say a visiting uncle pronounced 'siren' to rhyme with 'Irene', readers who pronounce it this way won't know why you noted it.

Metaphors and clich├ęs can enrich a story, or, cause it to be muddy. Used in the right place, and not overused, they can be gold.

Injecting YOU into the Story...

When telling your Story, don't forget to include yourself. How did you react to the situation? What did you wear? How did you feel about it? How did it affect you? Write your Story with both your heart and your head. Talk about what touched you and how it did that. Your readers will appreciate a heartfelt story.

Include all emotions the event were evoked. Holidays, a birth, weddings, all big events are usually preceded by days and days of anticipation. The actual day is filled with delight, joy and excitement or even tense or resentful moments. The following days may be cloaked in contentment, or bitterness. Tell it all.

Telling the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Guidelines please!

Some things may be unpleasant to write about. It may be hurtful to write about your parents negatively even though your childhood years were unhappy. Keep to the facts and try not to show judgment. Illustrate understanding, that you didn't come with an owners? manual and your parents had done the best they could at the time, if you feel that was the case.

Examine a Story from all angles, especially an unpleasant situation. Be an objective, independent observer, or put yourself in the other person's shoes and write how you would see it from that perspective.

Writing etiquette for the web readers...

Excessive use of capitals, exclamation points and bolded fonts can put off a reader. Let your words provide the emphasis.

Talk to other people who were at the event. Include their memories/feelings, while attributing quotes to the appropriate person. When writing about your philosophy, discuss it with others, especially those with opposing views. It will enhance what you write and it's a good way to get ideas.

Look through old newspapers to find out what happened in the world on the day you're writing about. Remember, the events of that day will most likely appear in the newspaper one or two days later. If it's a very old newspaper, it may have been published weekly or monthly. If you remember these events yourself, write your memories of that day. Not just 'where were you when', but, 'this was my involvement?' or, 'this is how I was affected'. Even events that occurred prior to your birth may have affected you. Parents who lived during the Great Depression era will have influenced how your family related to money and material possessions, for example.

From Story to Story it's okay to change your style of writing. Within each individual Story it's a good idea keep to the same style. Unity allows a story to read easier.

My Story is not 'new'...

It doesn't matter if you write something that's been written about a thousand times. This is your Story.

Is something too trivial to include? It depends how it's written. You can write about your trip to the grocery store if it's colorful: 'the pears stood at attention in their green skins, holding their breaths in anticipation of whether I'd pick one of them to take home.'

Be careful, though, as too much information clutters stories: 'I laughed so hard, I asked him to bring me a tissue.' He gave me one and I said, 'thank you.' He replied, 'you're welcome'. The tissue may be a key element to your story but the 'thank you' and 'welcome' are not.

Enjoying the process as well as the end result...

Have fun with your story. Try to write a poem about an experience. Use it in your Story regardless of how it turns out. Include lyrics of a song that describes your feelings. Include videos, music, or photos to enhance and enrich the Story.

Let readers make conclusions on their own. Rather than saying for example, 'Aunt Alice is crabby and rude and dresses like a clown,' you can write what Aunt Alice says that is crabby and rude. Describe her clothes. Readers will see it for themselves and Aunt Alice won't see that you called her angry and rude ' and become angry.

Citing my 'sources'...

Note where all information came from and how you came about getting it. Attribute antidotes to the person you heard it from.

Don't try too hard to be funny. Let it come naturally, or leave it out. Even if you truly have a gift for humor, don't overdo it. It can distract from your story. Also, readers don't always find an author as funny as they find themselves.

Let your writing be an enjoyment.