Abyssinia Henry: The Power of Telling

There is an important piece of writer’s advice floating around out there. You’ve probably run across it before. It’s on most writer’s advice websites, written on blackboards of creative writing classes, it’s on the lips of writing instructors, shaved into stationary cats, and probably written in the stars themselves:

Show don’t tell.

I’m not fond of this advice. Sure, at its heart, it has a valuable message. In simplest terms, show don’t tell encourages a novice writer to do more than simply report a series of events. To show is to encourage the readers to have a visceral, emotional, and empathetic reaction to what they are reading. A writer of creative fiction should do more than just report what happened like a newspaper article. The trouble is that while creative writing instructors are busy carving the words show don’t tell onto every pebble on a beach, they have failed to notice that the novice writers have not learned the important part of the lesson. Continue reading “Abyssinia Henry: The Power of Telling”

Why Does the Shaman Need the Fire?

“Writing is a dog’s life, but the only one worth living.”
— 
Gustave Flaubert

They descend upon the site, recalling last session’s twists and turns, some reenacting key moments, others content to smile like a conspirator before revealing their theories for tonight’s installment. They banter and question; probe and dissect. A tense excitement hangs in the air. Tonight promises to wrap up loose threads, and reveal the shadowy presence of the next arc. The group makes their way through the dark to the single glowing flame, barely more than a spark, that burns in the centre of the fire pit. Each has brought a log of wood, and the telling will only last as long as the wood burns—though its impact will linger on long into the night, the next day, and beyond.

As the group settles into the circle around the fire, the wood stacked within arms reach so as to not ruin the rhythm of the telling, the Storyteller appears silently from the darkness. There is no ruckus to proceed the Storyteller’s coming, no fanfare to follow. There is the fire; there is the circle. There is the Story. Continue reading “Why Does the Shaman Need the Fire?”

Planning My Way To Q: a 3-Stage Experiment in the Creative Process

“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.” — William Faulkner

I haven’t finished a story in… years. Articles, sure. But a full-fledged short story—not since before the end of my undergrad. Even my final creative writing project was handed in as a less than final draft. I would sit down with the beginning of the story and a picture of several neat scenes in my head. I’d muddle through from the start, hoping I’d stumble my way into a setup that would allow those scenes to happen. In other words, I’d have a clear image of scene-Q, I’d formulate a quick, barebones outline to get started, write the first line… And lose my way on scene-D, long before I got anywhere near Q. I could see the parts, but when it came to writing the prose, I struggled to get myself to the finish.

In short: my writing process was not working for me. Continue reading “Planning My Way To Q: a 3-Stage Experiment in the Creative Process”

No, You’re Analogue! A Writer’s Strategy

The process of reclaiming the title of storyteller was not entirely an easy one. Not only was I committing myself to a project with a fairly large scope, but I was also making myself accountable to another human being (who just so happens to be a very good friend). Combining that with the difficulty that comes with any artistic or creative process meant learning how to write all over again. Continue reading “No, You’re Analogue! A Writer’s Strategy”

There Are No Bad Ideas: Ideation for Storytellers

“There is no such thing as a bad idea.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase before—you might have even seen it on another creative advice website. It’s the sort of entry level advice that is both incredibly valuable and infuriatingly reductive. The truth is a bit more complex. There are bad ideas, but that does not mean that they are without merit or value.

Continue reading “There Are No Bad Ideas: Ideation for Storytellers”

Inciting Community

Just over one whole year ago, I sent an email to James with three little words in it: Adventures in Storytelling. (Actually, the email had a lot of words in it, but three very important ones were “Adventures”, “in”, and “Storytelling”.) In that moment I laid out an idea that was 10% plan, and asked him if he wanted to be a part of “…something better than if I do it alone.”

Continue reading “Inciting Community”