Tag Archives: storytelling

Blog Writing 101

I’ve written a lot of posts about blogging on my other blog, including some tutorial stuff, so if you want more than what I’m going to talk about in this post you can check those things out here. I find it incredible how many people I run into that, when I start talking about blogging, they start having palpitations. Did almost everyone really have that much trouble writing papers in school?

Catbert and the company blogger
Niall Kennedy
via Compfight

Writing is as easy or as hard as one decides it should be. Earlier this evening I was reading someone else’s blog post where the guy said he spends 6 to 8 hours writing each blog post. Most of mine takes between 10 & 15 minutes, depending on how much I write and how much internal linking or image adding I do. Most people I talk to say it takes them between 30 minutes to 2 hours to write blog posts.

Remember story writing when you were in school? The teacher told you that every story has to have a beginning, middle and end. Any time you start thinking about writing a blog post, the beginning and the end should write themselves for you most of the time. If you start with a certain point, that’s going to be one paragraph. Unless you write a list post your closing paragraph will be kind of a reiteration of what your opening premise for your post was, with a few things thrown in from the middle.

That should take care of anywhere from 50 to 100 words for you, maybe more. Since the recommendation is to try to write at least 250 words (300 or more is better) you’re already 20 – 40% of the way there.

What should your middle be? It can obviously be almost anything but what are you prepared to do? If you don’t consider yourself all that prolific then let me help you.

Let’s use baseball for this exercise. Let’s say you wanted to write something about the Boston Red Sox and their chances for winning their division in 2014. You don’t know everything about the team but you know enough to be dangerous.

In your opening paragraph you indicated you were going to talk about the Red Sox in 2014, so in your second paragraph you could start by mentioning how the team did in 2013, which included winning the World Series (yes, I’m a Red Sox fan). You could mention the immediate offseason hopes and dreams and how it all collapsed quickly (oh yeah, that’s how this season is ending; sigh…).

Then you could talk about players the team still has, how David Ortiz might fare in his final season, and so on. You could mention any new players coming into the fold and how good or bad they played the previous season.

Finally you could talk about whether you believe they improved, went backwards, or stayed the same. You could mention how you they didn’t so enough to catch the Yankees, or how management seemed to have given up on the team early by sending off its two best pitchers.

With your first paragraph pretty much done and your middle complete, your last paragraph could be a quick summary, something like “The 2014 Red Sox lost their momentum from last year’s World Series victories but looks like a contender heading into the next season. With unbridled enthusiasm and some great young players coming up it should be an exciting season next year.” That was 41 quick words, and I could have said more.

Blogging doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s not necessary to hit a home run, if you will, with every single post. Blogging isn’t meant to be a series of white papers; it’s meant to be a series of thoughts that not only help you show whatever expertise you have, but to help your main website, if your blog is attached to it, with its SEO properties. You can do this; trust me.
 

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Airport Stories

If you do anything often in your life, at some point you will start to experience some very strange things, even if they’re mildly strange. In my case, mildly doesn’t quite fit.

As some of you know, I’m traveling a lot these days because of my consulting business, and that means I’m flying. This week, I had some adventures that concerned being in airports that I thought I would share with you in a story form. I do that because one, I think stories are more interesting, and two, because it’s going to be long, and three, because it’s true. And it includes a video; what more could you ask for?

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Met this little guy &
father in DC

The story begins at the airport in my home area of Syracuse New York. I had my boarding pass with me, and I had qualified for what’s called a TSA pre-check, which means I got to go through a special short line, got to keep my shoes and belts on, and if I didn’t have any metal in my jacket I would have had to take that off either. However, since I did have some metal items in my pockets. I decided it was smart to go ahead and put my jacket on top in one of those bins.

I walked through just fine, get my stuff and head towards my gate. I’m pretty early, and there’s a new restaurant over by my gate so I decide to stop in and get something to eat. I recognize the woman working there as a lady who used to work at a restaurant across the street from where I live that closed and became a Moe’s Southwest Grill. It turns out that, because the restaurant had just recently opened, they had very few items that were on their menu. Last, I had to order something that I really didn’t want, but I was a little bit hungry so I decided to give it a shot.

At some point I decided to check my boarding pass just to make sure I had the time I was supposed to get on the plane accurate in my mind. At that point I realized I didn’t have my boarding pass anymore, and that I must have left it at the front when I went through the check.

I told the waitress I would be right back, and I walked back over there to see if anyone had turned in a boarding pass. I asked one of the police officers for some assistance, she asked one of the TSA people about it, and the woman says that all I have to do is go to one of the airlines stations and they would print a new boarding pass for me.

I go back to the restaurant, pay the bill, get my stuff and go to get my boarding pass. While I’m pulling out my ID, which is my drivers license, the lady tells me I don’t need it because my name is already on file. However, it’s a good thing I did check because it turns out I didn’t have my drivers license either. Then I remembered that as soon as I got through check out I had put my license and boarding pass in the bin and then I put my coat on top of it and totally forgot about those items.

The lady let me leave my bags behind the counter, and I rushed back to the checkout line to see if anyone had turned in my license. Of course no one had, so for the next 15 minutes everyone started looking for my drivers license, which I wasn’t allowed to do because I had are gone by that area.

Lucky for me, because not that many people qualify for the pre-check one of the police officers found my license and my other boarding pass. Talk about a lucky break, because I’m not sure I would’ve gone on the plane without my drivers license. It certainly would have been a miserable two weeks out of town without it since they would not let me rent a car.

All goes well from that point as I get on the first plane which will fly me from Syracuse to Washington DC, Reagan Airport. When I get to turn my phone on after the plane lands, I noticed that I had both a phone call and an e-mail. Check the e-mail first to discover that my plane has been delayed an hour for the next trip because of maintenance. That doesn’t seem like such a big deal, so I chill with a candy bar and wait that extra bit of time before I had my gate. Then there’s another hour of waiting, as against maintenance must have needed more time to get things fixed.

At this point the video’s going to take over for a short bit, and I hope you watch it because it tells what happens between what’s above and what’s coming after the video. Suspense! Lol

 


http://youtu.be/iquvSRZ7x3g

 
I hope you watched the video because now we resume the rest of the story. For most people what’s above would have been the end of it all but you know by now that normal things aren’t part of my life.

I had met someone who’d been on my flight that was canceled named Susie. It was great because we kept each other alert all night and that made the entire thing more palatable to deal with. And she turned out to be a prominent person for part of the rest of this story.

We moved back to the gate area about 7:30 in the morning, because they won’t let you stay in the gate area if there are no planes expected to be leaving during a period of time. We sat in an area where there were more seats for a bit of comfort and quiet, an area I like because I like to people watch and normally talk about people in my mind because, well, some folks dress in mysterious ways when they travel. It was nice having someone to talk to about these folks, which might seem mean but we were talking low and we were punchy. By that time she’s been in the airport for more than 16 hours and I hadn’t slept in about 22 hours.

Suddenly there’s this screaming coming from behind us somewhere. We look back and I don’t see anything but Susie does. Then we see this older man walking away and some young woman, who we determined had to be his adult daughter, but disturbed in some way, running after him and hitting him… and not lightly. She was screaming something but we had no idea what it was.

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I turned away for a minute and Susie says “She just hit that guy in the red shirt in the back of the head.” Sure enough, I look over and this guy who’d been sitting in a Gordon Biersch restaurant on a stool in a red shirt is looking over his shoulder at this woman, but she wasn’t paying him any attention.

The woman is still screaming and her father has stopped and is trying to hold her, but he’s fighting a losing battle. Now we hear all sorts of people calling for the police and blowing whistles and I’m thinking someone needs to be taken down.

Someone is, and in the annals of lessons one shouldn’t need to be taught, she turns around and slugs this guy in the red shirt in the back of the head again because the fool (I’m sure you’ll agree) had turned back around and had started eating his breakfast again. This time it was hard enough to knock him off the stool and onto the ground because the lesson he didn’t learn that almost everyone else would have learned the first time is you never turn your back on a crazy person who’s screaming and has already hit you. As he learned, hopefully for good, you could find yourself on the floor.

What came next was strange, as if we hadn’t had enough strange so far. The father pulls out a chair and is able to get this woman to sit down. She sits down, begins staring out somewhere, and starts saying over and over, very loudly, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom…” Not screaming, not chanting, just saying it loud enough for everyone in the area to hear, kind of monotone, and it’s the only thing I understood her saying all morning.

Having enough weirdness for one day, Susie and I decide to go over to the gate where we’d be catching the plane, which meant we kind of had to walk by this woman, who was still sitting in the chair and was now rocking. The police were talking to the guy in the red shirt, who could only say he was popped in the head twice because he never saw anything, and a couple other cops were standing behind her.

As we’re walking by this woman, she lets out this blood curdling scream and crying as if she’s in great distress, then immediately follows it with one of those laughs you often associate with evil geniuses in bad horror movies. Based on everything else that happened, I’m not sure saying it was the strangest thing is appropriate here.

About 25 minutes later, as we’re sitting in the area of our gate, we see the family walking by, the father luckily no worse for the wear, the mother making her first appearance, and this young lady, all of them pulling bags behind them, but she’s muttering something to herself, loud enough to be heard but not loud enough to understand it, followed by two police folks and another one on a Segway.

After all that normalcy came back, I got on my plane on time, got to my destination on time, drove to the hotel, cleaned up and went to work. In the video I said I was thinking about not going, but not only would I not get paid but I’d have had to pay for two nights of my hotel bill and that didn’t seem fiscally intelligent. And now, back to the dull and boring parts of my life once more… yeah, right!

You just can’t make this stuff up. 🙂
 

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The Art Of Storytelling

When I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago asking How Far Would I Go, I mentioned that I was in a story contest to try to win a free Kindle. Well, I didn’t win, and I can’t say I placed since I think there was only the main prize. Hey, that’s just how it goes sometimes.

However, I did get one critique on the story, which was a drastically cut down version my tale on meatloaf. The guy said he liked the story and laughed at it, but that I used the word “I” too many times and that if I’d tightened that up then the story might have been stronger.

Let’s talk about storytelling for a moment, if I may. Back when I wrote my series on book writing, I talked about the art of telling a story. People love stories, and the better you can tell your story, the more people love to hear it. My dad loved telling stories, and I think I got that from him. Our friends Charles, Allan and Jessica tell some wonderful true life stories. And of course there’sHyperbole and a Half; ’nuff said.

If you’re telling a story in general, it’s often recommended that you try not to use one or two words over and over. For instance, if you’re writing fiction and your story’s main character is Henry, you shouldn’t always be writing “Harry said” or “Harry thought” or something like that all the time. The idea is to weave Harry’s name in there every once in awhile to make sure everyone knows when it’s Harry or someone else, but otherwise try to make one’s story flow better by not stopping on every sentence by saying “Harry”.

That explains writing other stories; what if you’re telling your own tale? Suddenly the rules change, at least in my mind. It’s would sound silly if you were trying to convey your thoughts and you said “there was this thought that” or “Johnny wondered” if your name was Johnny.

If you’re telling your story one would expect you to use “I” most of the time if you’re in it. For instance, I was the main protagonist in writing my stories on The Keys or the poker tournament I was in back in 2009. How else would I have told those stories without the word “I”? If it was fictionalized maybe one finds a different way, but if I, or you, are telling our own story, how ridiculous would it be without “I”?

There is an art to storytelling, though. Beginning, middle, end; that’s the script, just like the script for most songs follows a 1-4-5-1 chord progression. We want to be introduced to our hero, so to speak, early on, and then we want to see what happens to that character, and then we want to see how it’s resolved.

Stories can be short or long; in essence, they are what they are, as I stated in one of my posts on better blogging. Stories need to follow a progression; not everyone likes stories that suddenly go back in history, or take sidebars that don’t seem to have anything to do with the story.

We want it direct, in order, fleshed out as much as needed, and then concluded in a way that makes us feel something; happy, upset, or even laughing. And if it’s your story, we want to know how you felt, what you thought, and if you have to use “I” often then so be it.

Of course, I could be wrong on this, but I doubt it. As I was reading Traci Lords book Underneath It All, I was struck by this thought; how could she have told her story otherwise without the frequent use of the word “I”? She couldn’t; that’s the point. If you need to use it, use it as long as it’s about you.

If it’s not about you, or you’re telling a story about someone or something else, then it shouldn’t be an issue with that word, but you need to be careful in looking at the words you do use to see if maybe there’s another choice every once in awhile.
 

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My Hot Tub Adventure

On Friday the 21st I decided that for the first time ever I was going to try the hot tub at the health club my wife and I just joined. I get all my stuff together at the house, mainly because this means I’m going to have to change at the club after I do my workout, and then change again after I’ve gotten out of the hot tub. Normally I just wear what I’m going to workout in and then come back home.


We go to the club, my wife and I, and we do our workout route. Then I decide I’m going to try the hot tub while she works out some more. I go into the locker room to change, and… before I go any further I just have to say there is no other ways for me to describe some of what I’m going to say so you just going to have to go with me here.
Continue reading My Hot Tub Adventure

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Meatloaf; My Story

I’ve mentioned in the past how I’ve written stories of things that happen in my life and share them with my friends through email. The last time I wrote one of my long stories was last year when I shared my story called The Keys. It was almost 2,400 words, but it turned out to be quite popular.

Today I’m back with another adventure, but I decided to do it a little different this time around. Instead of posting the entire story here, what I’ve done is linked it to this post, which means you can decide if you’d like to go and read it or not. If you do, then you can come back here and make a comment on it.

Im going to say this, to encourage you to go and read it. One, it’s the truth. Two, it’s funny; I know that because I shared it with one of my Australian chess friends through email (not Sire), and he wrote back saying I’d hurt his stomach. Three, I’ve already heard from a couple of the friends I sent it to via email, and they’ve enjoyed it as well. A couple of days ago someone lamented that there just aren’t many storytellers anymore. Well, let’s see if there’s an audience for it.

Without further ado, here’s the link to Meatloaf.


$25 off all orders over $250

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