Don’t Trip on Story Structure!

Last month in a Scribbles live call, we were discussing structure in storytelling. People often trip when it comes to structure (ahem). We tend to overthink it. We make it way more complex, more intimidating, than it needs to be.

Sure, looking at story pyramids and narrative arcs and structural triangles and, erm, Jen Storer coat hangers, can give us a lovely visual of how a story ‘hangs’ in space and time.

Discussing story structure with the Jen Storer Coat Hanger Theory…
You’ve gotta hang your words on something, yeah?

But.

We must never forget that storytelling began as an oral tradition.

Due to its enormous success, we’re making Fairy Tale Month a Duck Pond tradition. From now on, every September we get in touch with our inner queen, witch, toad or prince! 😉

Last month was Fairytale Month in the Duck Pond.

As a group and along with our extraordinary guests Kate Forsyth and Jen Campbell, (gawd they were freakin amazing!!) we delved deeply into the history and origin of fairytales.

And once again I was reminded that storytelling began as an oral tradition.

Storytelling began before writing.

Before writing.

It began centuries before scholars and analysts, authors and academics, had the chance to pick it apart, question its inner workings, conceptualise story pyramids.

When I consider storytelling through this lens, I’m reminded of how instinctive it can be.

It’s in our DNA.

We are born loving stories.

We are born knowing how to appreciate them.

We are also born knowing how to share them. How to pass them on. How to tell them.

We have an inbuilt radar for structure and pacing. An intuitive understanding that we sometimes lose touch with when we try to intellectualise the process too vigorously.

Ask me how I edit for structure?

Sure, I cut and paste and go over the hardcopy with an editor’s eye, shuffle scenes, tighten threads, flesh out content I’ve skipped over.

But first and foremost, I write intuitively.

Because when I write intuitively, I am tapping into the energy, skill and knowledge of all the storytellers who came before me.

I’m tapping into the collective unconscious that simply knows how to tell a story.

I’m tapping into the magic.


While I’m writing a story, I’m not trying to conceptualise, analyse, label its, um, gizzards…

I’m simply allowing myself, and my story, to flow.

With this in mind I’d like to share a little video, dear reader.

I made it back in autumn for my witchy friends over on Youtube. But I realise now that it’s a terrific teaching tool, a powerful visual display of pacing and structure at work.

If you have a minute to watch it, please do.

Watch with the eye of a storyteller and you will see how pacing and structure work. How the ‘story’ begins slowly, gathers pace, reaches a gentle climax, then rounds out with a (homely) denouement.

Storytelling, whether in words or images, really can be that straightforward. That simple.

It can flow magically — if we stand back and allow it.


The Duck Pond is open for its final 2021 intake, October 5 – October 9.

Click here to find out more and join us!


PS. Coming up in the Duck Pond, ‘Crafting Picture Books’ with Anna Walker. Our October masterclass!

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