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My Secret Visualisation Technique to Dramatically Improve Your Stories

by James Garside 2 years ago in how to
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The true shape of a story

My Secret Visualisation Technique to Dramatically Improve Your Stories
Photo by Biel Morro on Unsplash

Do you feel like you’re lost at sea when it comes to telling your stories?

You want to write a novel, short story, or screenplay, but keep drowning in the details. You know what it takes to write a decent story, and you’re in love with the story that you want to tell, but you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. You’re willing to write your ass off, and have written successfully in the past, but you choke at the sight of the blank page.

If you don’t do something about it then you’re going to die with this story inside you.

When you die your untold stories die with you. No-one can tell your stories as well as you can. No-one is coming to rescue you. No-one is going to do it for you. Your ship is sinking fast.

The good news is it doesn’t take much to turn your boat around and steer you in the right direction. You just need to think about story in a different way. Sometimes making a subtle shift in the way that you think is all it takes to stay afloat.

If you use the following visualisation technique it will radically improve your understanding of stories. It’s something that I normally only teach to my creative writing students. You’re welcome.

How to shape your story

What shape is a story? Make that shape with your hands.

Did you make a circle, a triangle, a square?

Some people even draw squiggly lines or try to trace a story arc in the air.

This makes sense — stories have shape and pattern.

Most plots follow the trajectory of an arc but often with twists and turns.

Now I want to show you the true shape of a story.

Make the shape of a bowl with your hands.

Fill your cupped hands with water — I’d advise doing this away from your computer or phone.

Try to hold your hands so that the water doesn’t leak out.

This is your story bowl.

Story Bowls

When readers look at your work they’re not interested in the words so much as the stuff that’s held inside them. No matter how much water you try to hold most of it will slip through your fingers unless your hands maintain a good shape.

That’s how it is with stories. The quality of your story determines how much of the world it can hold.

Visualise your story bowl as you write. Try and see the world in which the story takes place as a handful of water that you’re trying to keep inside the bowl. The words will come — don’t look for them, just focus on whatever it is that you hold in your hands.

You want to make of your story a bowl that can hold the world; and in order for your words to be able to hold the world they must be watertight.

Your story literally needs to hold water. If your story can be picked apart, then you’re going to get wet.

Lao Tzu said that a bowl was useful, not in itself, but because of the empty space and what it could hold. When you write you’re making a space for the world.

A story bowl has the potential to hold any amount of water. Sometimes a novel may only hold a cupful of water, because it is full of holes, whereas a haiku may hold the entire ocean.

It all depends upon the strength of the vessel.

James Garside is an independent journalist, writer and travel photographer. Subscribe to Chapter 23 for the inside track on their creative projects and insights about life, work and travel.

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About the author

James Garside

NCTJ-qualified British independent journalist, author, and travel writer. Part-time vagabond, full-time grumpy arse. I help writers and artists to do their best work.

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