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Bill Johnson

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Stories and Feelings
By Bill Johnson
Last edited: Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Posted: Friday, June 24, 2005



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Recent articles by
Bill Johnson

• Finding the Right Critique Group
• Writing a Novel With a Stuck Main Character
• Movies as Healing Journeys
• Bringing the Dead to Life, Notes on Twilight
• Low Cost Book Publicity
           >> View all 6
An essay about how stories are journeys of feeling for a story's audience.

Many stories are a journey of feeling for a story's audience. As characters overcome or pass through various obstacles to get what they want, they pass through stages of feeling, and readers who identify with these characters or become invested in what happens to them, share these feelings. This makes a story different than real life, where many people struggle to access their true feelings, feel a need to take drugs to mute or control their feelings, or feel unable to express or experience feelings.

Some writers struggle with writing about feelings because they tend to be thoughtful and reflective, waiting until after an experience to process their feelings.

Writers who deal with their feelings with detached reflection tend to create story characters who deal with their feelings with detached reflection, often off-stage and out of sight of a story's audience. The story's audience gets an objective report about a character's feelings, but does not get to share those feelings in their most immediate and potent form.

The very creative process that helps fuel storytelling, thoughtful reflection and an ability to visualize the creation of a story world, lends itself to storytelling being an objective process (watch the movie in your head and write down the details).

The trap for some writers is that when they draw on their own experiences from life to create objective portraits of characters, they experience these objective portraits subjectively. Think of this in the context of someone else's home movies. To you that collection of stills of a Hawaii vacation might include some great shots of beaches but, since you aren't on them, so what? But, to the creators of these home movies, each picture helps them relive, re-feel, the experience.

It's the job of the storyteller to help his or her audience experience that beach in Hawaii, what it feels like, and to suggest a story-like purpose to being on that beach (that something is in need of resolution and fulfillment). I'm not suggesting there isn't a place and purpose for objective writing. Hemmingway, for example, appears to be writing in an objective fashion, but he is always direct and immediate about creating a subtext for what the action of a story means, both to a character and to a story's audience.

Writing feelings that connect with actions and suggest a dramatic purpose is a skill that some writers need to study and learn.  

               ******************************************

Bill Johnson is the author of A Story is a Promise and The Spirit of Storytelling, a writing workbook. He is also the web master of storyispromise.com, a web site that explores principles of storytelling through reviews of popular movies, books and plays. Spirit is now available on Amazon Kindle, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004V020N0.

Follow Bill on Twitter .bjscript 

 

Web Site A Story is a Promise Available on Amazon Kindle
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Reviewed by Margo Logan 12/6/2009
Of the many instructors, teachers and professors rarely did I experience most of them to be in a state of grace as they shared what was to be taught. This author and a professor I had at Central Washington University who taught a class on children's literature have that grace. When one teaches in a state of grace it is simply a pleasure to hear and take in the love they have for the subject. It doesn't feel like "studying" or a "job", it feels like delightful playing; out of which comes inspiration, awareness and new possibilities of joy for the student.
Reviewed by Cynthia Borris 6/26/2005
Bill,

For me your last sentence says it all. A writer needs to study and learn. It's part of the job.

Cynthia

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A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling

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