Tag Archives: Storytelling

Eleven Years

eleven-years

This blog is getting old. Already well into its second decade. (Well, into, at least.)

Today is the day, eleven years ago, that I first set out on this blogging adventure. You can read the post here. Many of the August Twenth-Sixths since, I have linked to that first “blog”. It was not of much consequence, but it was the beginning of much thought and heart shared, many stories told and re-told, and generally just life shared with you, Dear Reader.

You’ll note, if you are the observant sort, that the next most recent post here at GregsHead dot net is from the month of June. (At least it is still in the year Twenty-Fourteen…) The writing has been sparse, selective, and even somewhat nonexistent for quite some time. There are reasons, but the main reason of course is my own choice not to write.

Why does that happen? The reasons I mentioned above include excessive busyness, choosing to spend time on other things, feelings of an unimportance placed (by me) upon my writing on any topic, and even sometimes being so beat down by life that, “I just don’t feel like it.”

I have taken some moments to get thoughts out. Perhaps you’ll recall when I wrote about how truly Special God has made each of us to be (not as sappy as that synopsis makes it sound); or two posts [one, two] about our strength being found in our weakness; or maybe you saw the post titled Christians Being Christian, and my aversion to gatherings where those of that ilk are present in greater numbers.

(If not, today might be a nice day to click those links and catch up?)

Perhaps as the Fall begins so many things anew, I will make a concerted (joyful) effort to put fingers to keyboard and once again process the thoughts that constantly churn in my head and heart. I love to share them (and in so doing, refine and learn from them) and I love to hear back from anyone in whom they might strike a similar chord—or a discordant one.

It will resume. The words have flowed for eleven years now. I don’t imagine they will ever cease completely, so long as God breathes his life into me, and there is Internet to share these stories by.

Thanks for reading along.

What Makes A Good Story?

Who doesn’t love a good story? We are drawn into some tales, so much that we feel we can’t turn away. We can’t put the book down. We are mesmerized.

What is it that grips us so? Is it a likable character, or characters, who draw us into their own stories—almost as if they were our own—or does a compelling story grab our attention, whether or not we find depth and humanness in the characters who play it out?

Lots of Books

I really don’t know. I feel could be swayed either way.

My kids love a good story. We will often read “chapter books” together just before bedtime. We’ve read some great stories like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Gentle Ben, and we just finished off The Jungle Book (the real stories by Rudyard Kipling, not the Disney-fied versions) and The Black Stallion. Next up is C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia!

But they pretty quickly recognize a story that is missing “something”. (We would not recommend Irma and Jerry, by George Selden, though we loved The Cricket In Times Square!) The most interesting part was that we began Kipling’s Jungle Books after giving up on Irma & Jerry midway through, and within mere paragraphs all four listeners were hooked (as was the Reader!) by the tale Kipling spun.

On the other side of the coin, the oldest two boys and I tried—and tried, and tried—to read Dickens’ Great Expectations together, until after months of trying, we finally put it down and have never returned. While the story has some interesting, likable characters, we would say the plot was not only not compelling, it was perhaps entirely nonexistent?

What is it that is either present or lacking in a story that compels or repels the reader?

I am a reader. I am also a writer.

I am currently enjoying the process of writing out a story that has been very well-received. The plot is not very original, I don’t think, though there are plenty of cliff-hangers and interesting adventures. The strength of this story does seem to be its cast of likable characters. The reader (and even the writer!) want to know what happens to these characters. We are rooting for the “good guys” and against the “bad guys”.

The story that I am writing was originally told over a series of nights at bedtime. It was perhaps a couple weeks. Maybe slightly more. The kids love the stories that I tell, and they especially love the ones that I make up with them as the main characters!

We need to identify with the story. That’s important.

Does that mean the characters are the most important part of a “good” story? Or can a strong, interesting story overcome less interesting individuals who are playing it out?

I’d really love to hear from you, Dear Reader. What do you prefer? What prevents you from putting down your book? When real life demands you pull yourself away, do the characters, or their story remain in your thoughts. Do you find that you miss them, or wonder what will happen to them?

Or is it both?

These are the questions that I currently ponder as I enjoy the characters and stories of books read and written.

Now, I must return to my book… 🙂

Wordality

tolkienThere is no word to describe what I’m attempting to put into words. The concept of capturing extant reality in written words when no words are used—nor in the true reality, are they necessary—in order to communicate by text or mere oration (and auditory-only experience of that oratory) the experience in its entirety. It’s so difficult, and yet so masterfully accomplished by J. R. R. Tolkien in his stories of Middle-earth.

My two oldest boys and I have been making the journey through Tolkien’s adventures, starting with the Hobbit and subsequently through the Lord of the Rings trilogy for probably the past two years. (We’re taking them at a Sunday Driver’s pace…) The worlds that this man must have seen in his mind’s eye, and the incredible attention to detail that he conveys through description and dialogue are truly, utterly astounding. At times it even feels like too much; there are moments when after a few pages of reading poetry in Elven tongues you begin to wonder, “What is the deal with this guy?”

But then there are moments where you almost feel you are not simply present with the characters, in the magical places—rather you feel as though you are one of them.

Of course this is the goal of anyone who puts pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), but how many can so well achieve this as has Mr. Tolkien? When you have a society in your name, you’ve probably made a name for yourself.

We’ve nearly reached the end of the third book in the LoTR series, and tonight’s chapter was just such an enjoyable read. Tolkien is bringing together several long, arduous journeys for so many characters through whom he has helped us live this adventure; their joys are ours, all that they are experiencing can be felt by the reader.

When I read the following paragraph, I stopped and commented to my son Ian, the aspiring author, observing that what Tolkien is able to do is to put into words things which have no words. He assembles (even creates) just the right words to allow the reader to enter the entirety of the moment. Not only does he elaborately describe a lush environment in all its fullness, but he also so perfectly captures the emotions and even the reasons for the emotions without “spelling it out” … rather he brings it to life.

‘A great Shadow has departed’, said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then, as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.

If Artists did not exist who could master the words to somehow so beautifully capture the fullness of that moment, it might have gone something like this:

‘A great Shadow has departed’, said Gandalf, with a laugh, a sound which Sam had not heard for a long time, as their journey had been so full of sadness, toil, and hardship. The sound made him glad, but Sam began to cry. After a while, his tears ceased and he too began to laugh. Then he got out of bed.

One of these things is not like the other …

I remain awe-struck at the way Tolkien not only paints a vivid picture using words, he really creates a wordality. (A reality brought to life—as near as possible—with only words.) The way the emotions of the moment are described in that paragraph, to think to describe the depth of the joy as laughter “[falling] upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known”, is much more engaging and colorful and real than, “The sound made him glad”.

(It’s quite obvious that I am no J. R. R. Tolkien!)

While words can never capture the fullness of experience, there truly is power in words, and I am becoming a firm believer that J. R. R. was one of the finest word craftsmen/artists/story-tellers ever to have breathed our air.

I shall greatly miss Middle-earth when we finally complete our reading of The Return of The King. I may have to delve into one of the sundry other works of Tolkien that rest quietly on my shelves, anticipating their turn to share the worlds which they contain.

The wordalities I myself endeavor to create may not be as complete and vivid as Tolkien’s, but I will nonetheless continue with ardent fealty my quest to capture with words the thoughts that are stirred in my heart and mind, ruminate in my soul, crescendoing within the depths of my being from the simplest melodies to the most elaborate symphonies; becoming then all the more enjoyable when shared with a fellow Word Enthusiast and Lover of Locution, like you.