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WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Harnessing the Power of Story to Engage Your Readers
CINDY REED
Writer | Blogger | Speaker | Teacher
CINDYREED.ME
CINDY@CINDYREED.ME
@REEDSTER2
WORDCAMP ATLANTA
MARCH 27-29, 2015
Why should bloggers tell stories?
© 2014 Cindy ReedPhoto by Allan Ajifo/ CC BY
Story engages.
“The brain of the person telling a story and the person listening to
it can synchronize.”
~ Leo Widrich
“The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains”
(December 5, 2012 Lifehacker)
© 2014 Cindy Reed
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Spin a good yarn and your readers will:
Linger.
Dig through your archives.
Share your stuff.
Come back for more.
Story persuades.
“Facts tell, but stories sell.”
~ Bryan Eisenberg
“Content Marketing: Superheroes Teach the Art of Storytelling” (ClickZ)
© 2014 Cindy Reed
WHAT IS STORY?
© 2014 Cindy Reed
THE STORY EQUATION
Story = Conflict + Narrative Structure
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Conflict is You vs. Something.
Without conflict, nothing would happen.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
CONFLICT
Story is more than an emotion or an idea.
“This happened and I was sad
or angry or elated” is NOT a story.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
© 2014 Cindy Reed
EXAMPLE: EMOTION VS. STORY
Gardening is peaceful.
“As my life spiraled into
chaos, I tended my garden:
the one constant keeping
my soul intact.”
Story is more than a sales pitch.
“Use our services because of
these five bullet points” is NOT a story.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
© 2014 Cindy Reed
EXAMPLE: SALES VS. STORY
Buy my scarves on Etsy
because they’re awesome.
“I perched on a rickety
stool, memorizing the way
my grandmother’s
leathered hands scraped
the wool between the
carding boards.”
Story is not simply reporting facts.
Chronologies, straight reporting, and
instructions are NOT stories.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
A
happy
birthday party
is
not
a story.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
HOW DO WE TELL STORIES ON OUR BLOGS?
IN A FLASH = 500 WORDS (OR SO)
© 2014 Cindy Reed
What is flash nonfiction?
DON’T tell your story
quickly.
DO tell a story with ONE
core concept.
EDIT until your story is
blog-sized: 400-600
words.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Break it down.
Wool
• Visited farm to
shear sheep
• Grandma taught to
card wool
Dyes
• Learned which
berries to use
• Harvested berries
on hike
Knitting
• Chooses patterns
from art.
• Knits as mindful
meditation
NARRATIVE STRUCTURE
© 2014 Cindy Reed
STORY REQUIRES STRUCTURE.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
“Not every word that comes out of our
mouths is a story.
Story is narrative.”
~ Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher:
Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story
(New World Library 2007)
© 2014 Cindy Reed
In the beginning…
© 2014 Cindy Reed
JUMP IN.
 Don’t tell the reader what
you’re going to tell them
 Start when your story
starts
 Short first paragraph
© 2014 Cindy Reed
THE NARRATIVE HOOK
© 2014 Cindy ReedPhoto by Beta-J / CC BY
THE PURPOSE OF THE FIRST SENTENCE
© 2014 Cindy Reed
“[T]he first line exists for one reason and one
reason only: to compel the reader to read the
second line.”
Michael Larson, “Great Opening Lines: How to Grab Readers and Never Let Them Go”
(San Francisco Writers’ Conference, March 23, 2011)
http://sfwriters.org/blog/great-opening-lines-how-to-grab-readers-and-never-let-them-go/
FIRST SENTENCE | CONFLICT, SETTING
JEANNETTE WALLS, THE GLASS CASTLE
© 2014 Cindy Reed
“I was sitting in a taxi,
wondering if I had
overdressed for the
evening, when I looked
out the window and saw
Mom rooting through a
Dumpster.”
© 2014 Cindy Reed
WORDY
“I was flying from Asheville to
Las Vegas, connecting through
Atlanta, on my way to speak at
a conference that is literally
called BACON.”
PUNCHY
“I dropped into the window
seat, on the wing.
The exit row.”
The middle.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
THE MIDDLE | THE RISING ACTION
Flesh out obstacles in the protagonist’s path.
Show characters grow and change.
Create tension leading to the climatic moment.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
~ MarkTwain
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Show, don’t tell.
Example 1: Crowded Taekwondo
Author: Cindy Reed of The Reedster Speaks
Telling Showing
It was crowded at my
daughter’s taekwondo
class.
The backside of a
backpacked dad poked
into me, uncomfortably
adjacent to my face.
~ Cindy Reed
“The Layered Look Only Works if You Wear Layers”
(The Reedster Speaks, Jan. 16, 2014)
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Example 2: Grandma’s Old Car
Author: Louise Ducote of Hair of the Dogs
Telling Showing
My grandmother gave
me her old car.
She was wide-hipped and
thirsty and I called her
Bertha after the Grateful
Dead song … . [A] two-tone
’72 Cutlass handed down
from my grandma.
~ Louise Ducote, “Here, This is for you”
(Hair of the Dogs, June 18, 2102)
© 2014 Cindy Reed
… and in the end.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Reaching equilibrium.
“In life, we long for equilibrium. . . . But in stories,
when equilibrium is achieved, the story ends.”
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Jo-Anne Richards and Richard Beynon
http://allaboutwritingcourses.com/online/online-creative-writing/
KNOW WHEN TO STOP.
No Neat Bows
© 2014 Cindy Reed
No Navel Gazing No Summing Up
Photo by jayneandd / CC BY
Example: The Accident
Too much:
“Should I have done more?
Aren’t we defined by the
choices we make, in the blink
of an eye?”
Just right:
“When the local news called
today, I declined to be
interviewed on camera.”
Follow the Coco Chanel rule.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Find your voice.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
WHAT IS VOICE?
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Making your story sound like you.
Making your story sound like what’s in your head.
DON’T write like you talk.
Write like you ARE.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Discovering your Voice.
What’s your personality?
How do you speak?
How does your mind work?
What do you think about?
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Informal Voice | The Reedster Speaks
“We stood in line behind all of America. A woman
dripping with perspiration and toddlers learned the hard
way that the orchard only took cash. A man towed a
Radio Flyer wagon overflowing with apples. The Duggars
couldn’t have eaten that many apples in a lifetime.”
Cindy Reed, “Apple Hell: A Fun Fall Family Tradition”
(The Reedster Speaks Sept. 10, 2014)
Lyrical Voice | Bill Dameron
“When we drive along the
rocky coast of Maine and
watch the green ocean
swell like it is a living
being larger than eternity
I do not say it.”
Bill Dameron, “Don’t Say It”
(The Authentic Life Jan. 5, 2014)
Minimalist Voice | Michelle Longo
My mother would twist her hair at the nape,
secure it with one barrette, and walk around
with a wet washcloth around her neck.
If I aggravated her, she’d simply say,
‘Michelle, it’s hot.’
~ Michelle Longo, “I Am Not Safe”
(The Journey, Sept. 26, 2013)
The takeaway.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
© 2014 Cindy Reed
WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
CINDY REED
Writer | Blogger | Speaker | Teacher
http://cindyreed.me
www.reedsterspeaks.com
cindy@cindyreed.me © 2014 Cindy ReedImage © 2014 Julia Spencer
Resources for writers.
© 2014 Cindy Reed
THE EDITING PROCESS
© 2014 Cindy Reed
BE THE READER
1. TELL A STORY. Is it more than an emotion, an opinion, or a bunch of facts?
2. READ FOR MEANING. Are you saying what you mean?
3. CHECK YOUR STRUCTURE. Do you have a clear beginning, middle, and end?
4. DON’T BE BORING. Are you using the storyteller’s toolkit to keep it interesting?
5. CUT IT OUT. Can you ditch fancy words, summary, and exposition?
PROOFREADING CHECKLIST
Are you using the correct verb tense?
Are you preferring the active voice?
Do your subjects and verbs agree in number?
Do your nouns and pronouns agree in number, case, and gender?
Is the antecedent clear?
Is your punctuation correct?
Have you double-checked apostrophes, quotation marks, and
parentheses?
Are you correctly using commas?
Is your spelling correct?
Have you checked for homonyms, commonly confused words,
typos, and missing or doubled words/letters?
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Resources | Writing
 Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
 Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius within You by Ray Bradbury
 On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
 The Situation and The Story: The Art of Personal Narrative by Vivian Gornick
 Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussion on Story Writing by Ursula LeGuin
 Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin
 On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
© 2014 Cindy Reed
Resources | Grammar
 The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the
Eager, and the Doomed
by Karen Elizabeth Gordon
 Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne
Truss
 Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by
Patricia T. O’Conner
 The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
 Grammar Girl: Quick & Dirty Tips http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-
girl
 The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl
© 2014 Cindy Reed

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WHAT'S YOUR STORY: ENGAGING YOUR READERS WITH THE POWER OF STORYTELLING

  • 1. WHAT’S YOUR STORY? © 2014 Cindy Reed Harnessing the Power of Story to Engage Your Readers CINDY REED Writer | Blogger | Speaker | Teacher CINDYREED.ME CINDY@CINDYREED.ME @REEDSTER2 WORDCAMP ATLANTA MARCH 27-29, 2015
  • 2. Why should bloggers tell stories? © 2014 Cindy ReedPhoto by Allan Ajifo/ CC BY
  • 3. Story engages. “The brain of the person telling a story and the person listening to it can synchronize.” ~ Leo Widrich “The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains” (December 5, 2012 Lifehacker) © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 4. © 2014 Cindy Reed Spin a good yarn and your readers will: Linger. Dig through your archives. Share your stuff. Come back for more.
  • 5. Story persuades. “Facts tell, but stories sell.” ~ Bryan Eisenberg “Content Marketing: Superheroes Teach the Art of Storytelling” (ClickZ) © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 6. WHAT IS STORY? © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 7. THE STORY EQUATION Story = Conflict + Narrative Structure © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 8. Conflict is You vs. Something. Without conflict, nothing would happen. © 2014 Cindy Reed CONFLICT
  • 9. Story is more than an emotion or an idea. “This happened and I was sad or angry or elated” is NOT a story. © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 10. © 2014 Cindy Reed EXAMPLE: EMOTION VS. STORY Gardening is peaceful. “As my life spiraled into chaos, I tended my garden: the one constant keeping my soul intact.”
  • 11. Story is more than a sales pitch. “Use our services because of these five bullet points” is NOT a story. © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 12. © 2014 Cindy Reed EXAMPLE: SALES VS. STORY Buy my scarves on Etsy because they’re awesome. “I perched on a rickety stool, memorizing the way my grandmother’s leathered hands scraped the wool between the carding boards.”
  • 13. Story is not simply reporting facts. Chronologies, straight reporting, and instructions are NOT stories. © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 15. HOW DO WE TELL STORIES ON OUR BLOGS? IN A FLASH = 500 WORDS (OR SO) © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 16. What is flash nonfiction? DON’T tell your story quickly. DO tell a story with ONE core concept. EDIT until your story is blog-sized: 400-600 words. © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 17.
  • 18. Break it down. Wool • Visited farm to shear sheep • Grandma taught to card wool Dyes • Learned which berries to use • Harvested berries on hike Knitting • Chooses patterns from art. • Knits as mindful meditation
  • 20. STORY REQUIRES STRUCTURE. © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 21. “Not every word that comes out of our mouths is a story. Story is narrative.” ~ Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story (New World Library 2007) © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 22. In the beginning… © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 23. JUMP IN.  Don’t tell the reader what you’re going to tell them  Start when your story starts  Short first paragraph © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 24. THE NARRATIVE HOOK © 2014 Cindy ReedPhoto by Beta-J / CC BY
  • 25. THE PURPOSE OF THE FIRST SENTENCE © 2014 Cindy Reed “[T]he first line exists for one reason and one reason only: to compel the reader to read the second line.” Michael Larson, “Great Opening Lines: How to Grab Readers and Never Let Them Go” (San Francisco Writers’ Conference, March 23, 2011) http://sfwriters.org/blog/great-opening-lines-how-to-grab-readers-and-never-let-them-go/
  • 26. FIRST SENTENCE | CONFLICT, SETTING JEANNETTE WALLS, THE GLASS CASTLE © 2014 Cindy Reed “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.”
  • 27. © 2014 Cindy Reed WORDY “I was flying from Asheville to Las Vegas, connecting through Atlanta, on my way to speak at a conference that is literally called BACON.” PUNCHY “I dropped into the window seat, on the wing. The exit row.”
  • 28. The middle. © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 29. THE MIDDLE | THE RISING ACTION Flesh out obstacles in the protagonist’s path. Show characters grow and change. Create tension leading to the climatic moment. © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 30. ~ MarkTwain © 2014 Cindy Reed Show, don’t tell.
  • 31. Example 1: Crowded Taekwondo Author: Cindy Reed of The Reedster Speaks Telling Showing It was crowded at my daughter’s taekwondo class. The backside of a backpacked dad poked into me, uncomfortably adjacent to my face. ~ Cindy Reed “The Layered Look Only Works if You Wear Layers” (The Reedster Speaks, Jan. 16, 2014) © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 32. Example 2: Grandma’s Old Car Author: Louise Ducote of Hair of the Dogs Telling Showing My grandmother gave me her old car. She was wide-hipped and thirsty and I called her Bertha after the Grateful Dead song … . [A] two-tone ’72 Cutlass handed down from my grandma. ~ Louise Ducote, “Here, This is for you” (Hair of the Dogs, June 18, 2102) © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 33. … and in the end. © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 34. Reaching equilibrium. “In life, we long for equilibrium. . . . But in stories, when equilibrium is achieved, the story ends.” © 2014 Cindy Reed Jo-Anne Richards and Richard Beynon http://allaboutwritingcourses.com/online/online-creative-writing/
  • 35. KNOW WHEN TO STOP. No Neat Bows © 2014 Cindy Reed No Navel Gazing No Summing Up Photo by jayneandd / CC BY
  • 36. Example: The Accident Too much: “Should I have done more? Aren’t we defined by the choices we make, in the blink of an eye?” Just right: “When the local news called today, I declined to be interviewed on camera.”
  • 37. Follow the Coco Chanel rule. © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 38. Find your voice. © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 39. WHAT IS VOICE? © 2014 Cindy Reed Making your story sound like you. Making your story sound like what’s in your head.
  • 40. DON’T write like you talk. Write like you ARE. © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 41. Discovering your Voice. What’s your personality? How do you speak? How does your mind work? What do you think about? © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 42. Informal Voice | The Reedster Speaks “We stood in line behind all of America. A woman dripping with perspiration and toddlers learned the hard way that the orchard only took cash. A man towed a Radio Flyer wagon overflowing with apples. The Duggars couldn’t have eaten that many apples in a lifetime.” Cindy Reed, “Apple Hell: A Fun Fall Family Tradition” (The Reedster Speaks Sept. 10, 2014)
  • 43. Lyrical Voice | Bill Dameron “When we drive along the rocky coast of Maine and watch the green ocean swell like it is a living being larger than eternity I do not say it.” Bill Dameron, “Don’t Say It” (The Authentic Life Jan. 5, 2014)
  • 44. Minimalist Voice | Michelle Longo My mother would twist her hair at the nape, secure it with one barrette, and walk around with a wet washcloth around her neck. If I aggravated her, she’d simply say, ‘Michelle, it’s hot.’ ~ Michelle Longo, “I Am Not Safe” (The Journey, Sept. 26, 2013)
  • 45. The takeaway. © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 46. © 2014 Cindy Reed WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
  • 47. CINDY REED Writer | Blogger | Speaker | Teacher http://cindyreed.me www.reedsterspeaks.com cindy@cindyreed.me © 2014 Cindy ReedImage © 2014 Julia Spencer
  • 48. Resources for writers. © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 49. THE EDITING PROCESS © 2014 Cindy Reed BE THE READER 1. TELL A STORY. Is it more than an emotion, an opinion, or a bunch of facts? 2. READ FOR MEANING. Are you saying what you mean? 3. CHECK YOUR STRUCTURE. Do you have a clear beginning, middle, and end? 4. DON’T BE BORING. Are you using the storyteller’s toolkit to keep it interesting? 5. CUT IT OUT. Can you ditch fancy words, summary, and exposition?
  • 50. PROOFREADING CHECKLIST Are you using the correct verb tense? Are you preferring the active voice? Do your subjects and verbs agree in number? Do your nouns and pronouns agree in number, case, and gender? Is the antecedent clear? Is your punctuation correct? Have you double-checked apostrophes, quotation marks, and parentheses? Are you correctly using commas? Is your spelling correct? Have you checked for homonyms, commonly confused words, typos, and missing or doubled words/letters? © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 51. Resources | Writing  Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg  Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott  Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius within You by Ray Bradbury  On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King  The Situation and The Story: The Art of Personal Narrative by Vivian Gornick  Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussion on Story Writing by Ursula LeGuin  Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin  On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser © 2014 Cindy Reed
  • 52. Resources | Grammar  The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed by Karen Elizabeth Gordon  Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss  Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O’Conner  The Elements of Style by Strunk & White  Grammar Girl: Quick & Dirty Tips http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar- girl  The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl © 2014 Cindy Reed