Help Me Write a Story

That’s the request I put out on Facebook this week. Not so much because I needed help, but because I wanted to help people see how easy it is to be creative. All you have to do is put rational thought behind you and let the story carry you along. The result was madness, mayhem and a hint of murder. It demonstrates that a story will often take you to unexpected places and will end far away from where it began.

I simply put out a post with the first line of a story and this is the result.

The girl went into the wood. She heard something cry out in pain in the trees to her right. She stopped, unsure of what to do next. In the dark of the moonless night, her heart pumped with fear. Tendrils of mist crept along the forest floor, ghostly fingers catching at her ankles. A tree creaked, a branch rustled. A squirrel leapt out at her feet. Surprisingly, it did not move, but rather seemed to be focussed on something going on behind her. She turned to see what had the little creature so visually engaged. And was alarmed to see a shadow emerge from behind a tree, wielding what appeared to be a weapon of some sort, burnished and shining with its own inner light.

Mesmerised, she gazed as her own life unfolded before her. Then she got her first glimpse of the creature behind the shadow and stared in total disbelief, before doubling over in hysterical laughter! It wasn’t what or who she thought it was. And yet she wasn’t afraid, as she knew this person facing her in the forest’s misty gloom no longer had any power over her. Once more, she closed her eyes and upon opening them found herself transported to – could it be, dare she believe it to be? – 19th Century Paris.

Ouh la la, she gasped! Night time mists swirled around her as her feet touched the cobbled stones beneath her, while grey shadowy figures floated past and voices echoed, carried in the mist. She sat up with a start. First time for everything, she thought, as she replayed the dream in her head. That 4 hour multi-player session on Assassins Creed had left its imprint!

She realised she was at the foot of Montmartre hill. How she came to be there was a mystery. As she looked back she saw the big red windmill and remembered that this was where she had earned her living with middle ranking courtesans. But La Goulue was no ordinary chorus girl. She had come to Paris to join the Bohemian revolution but found herself in a drug and prostitute underworld. The only way she could take to the stage was with the help of a stiff glass of Port.

She looked down at her feet and groaned… forgot the hiking boots AGAIN. But she had remembered to wear her new all terrain slippers. She picked up her bag and started to sing a french lullaby she had heard from her indian mother, who had worked in Bombay in a sweet little French restaurant called Moulin Rouge. Her feet started to do the Can Can up the step to Montmartre, when suddenly she tripped, her dress flew over her head and luckily covered her blushes. She realised her Spanx (elasticated figure hugging undergarments) could be seen by everyone on the street, so she stood tall and continued the Can Can all the way to Moulin Rouge.

As she regained her composure, she became aware of the sky darkening and looked up just as a huge black winged creature swooped down and swept her away to Beauvais, where she could see that all the RyanAIR stallions were waiting to take her back home, but she remembered she had no passport with her. But that didn’t matter, because she had just realised that by shifting her weight to the left or right she could actually steer the winged creature. On impulse she decided to head for Gort.

She had a sudden longing for her Aunty Mary’s famous hot port and apple torte, but landed in the arms of a jester dancing in a Norman fort. But she wasn’t hurt. Just a bit mortified. Luckily, she was in possession of a glass of port, bought for her by a kindly Galweigan farmer who wanted to know her reason for visiting his town. Why had such a pretty dancer landed in his fields, when her luck was down?

Her purple ankles were swelling by the minute. She was rather obssessed with those ankles: so much so that she forgot about her Achilles heel, which was often guilty of a tendency to be left behind her. She knew that no pain, nor swollen purple ankles, nor aching Achilles heels could stop her in pursuing her dream, of marrying a West of Ireland farmer with frontage that runs along the wild Atlantic coastline. This meant that she could spend her days hiking in her all terrain slippers, practicing her photography and exercising the winged creature. He seemed to have adopted her and now followed her everywhere. Although she was beginning to become a little unsettled by its ever-growing fondness for humping her leg.

At last La Goulue’s dream came true. She found herself back on Achill, where the winged creature had banished her from. La Goulue had been a leprechaun fairy who was born to dance. She could now see the peat bogs and the great sea cliffs and in the distance her childhood sweetheart. They would dance together again on this Emerald Isle.









Tell Your Story in Four Ways

When I tell people that I write content that helps people tell their story, they say to me, ‘I’ve been sending a newsletter out and it’s had no response,’ or “I went on the radio to talk about this event I have coming up, but I didn’t get a single phone call.”

So why didn’t it work?

They put all their eggs in one basket.

Don't rely on just one medium to get your message across

The trouble is, not everyone absorbs information in the same way. The key is to tell your story through three or four different mediums at the same time. You just adapt your story to the medium you’re using.

The key to telling your story is to use multiple mediums.

Here are four ways to tell your story.

Tell it to the Horse’s Mouth

Talk to your friends and family about what you hope to achieve. Not only will they support you, but they know other people and they’ll spread the word to them. Tell people that you know will have an interest in what you have to say – they’ll be grateful for such useful information. You can also take it to the next level by knocking on the doors of organisations who will be interested in spreading your story to their members.

Tell it Online

You can now tell your story to the world thanks to the Internet. Start blogging, posting and tweeting. Use the word of mouth factor to reach specific people who you know will be interested and who will spread the word. They won’t see it as you pestering them; they’ll think, ‘This is interesting, I must tell my followers about this.’

Tell it in the Media

Yes, the world has moved online, but people are still very attached to their local newspapers and radio stations. There’s the familiarity factor; people like listening to programmes or picking up a paper and thinking, ‘I know her.’ You’ll create a word-of-mouth buzz around yourself that money can’t buy.

Tell it on Email

What do most people do at least once a week, if not once a day? Check email. So hit them directly in their inbox with a colourful, fun newsletter telling them about your organisation’s activities or about an upcoming event.  You can hit everyone on your contact list within seconds.

Your story deserves to be heard. By telling it in a few different ways, you’ll reach more people and increase your chances of success in whatever you’re trying to achieve.

Read it Out Loud

When people ring to book my creative writing classes, one of the questions that bubbles up is: ‘Will I have to read it out?” It’s usually asked with a little quaver in the voice. Unfortunately for them, I have to crack the whip and say yes.

There is a method in my madness. Allow me to explain. When people think of reading out loud, they think of school: the sniggers of their classmates if they stumbled over words, the teacher getting cross, their faces growing redder. Add to that the fact that most people put speaking in front of a crowd on a par with being put into a room full of spiders or snakes and you can see why people might feel like running for the hills.

What they don’t realise is that the environment of a creative writing class is very different from that of school. It’s warm and supportive. Everyone’s in the same boat; they’re all adults who haven’t been in a classroom in years. They’ve taken the gamble of sharing work with people they probably never knew before they joined the class. And in the end, no-one can read your work as well as you. You’re the one who has written it,. Only you can do justice to it.

That’s why I encourage people to overcome their fear and read their work. Obviously, if someone is so phobic about the thought of reading aloud that it puts them off going to class, I’m not going to force them. Instead, I hope people will feel the way they might if they skied down a mountain – exhilarated and invigorated.

So if you’re nervous at the thought of sharing your writing with a group, take a deep breath and take a chance. The people who listen to you will be rooting for you and in the end, they’ll shower you with praise.