I wish all of my stories were like this:

Seriously, you guys, I love this so hard.

I like the idea that stories are love letters, though not always the kind that we expect. There are stories like this one – a letter of love from one person to another person, and it is lovely. But there are also stories that are love letters to the books we loved or love letters to the people we used to be or love letters to the world. Some stories are love letters that the writer constructs, and other are built entirely by the reader. I think that all of my stories are love letters to the lonely child I used to be. Except the ones that I write for my children. Or the ones that I write to my husband. Or the ones I write to the world (or every world).

Perhaps it is all these things at once.

In any case, I love the simplicity of the drawings here. There is an immediacy to the storytelling and an urgency to the tenderness that I find terribly appealing.

Narrative is an amazing thing. We think of storytelling as a linguistic art, bound by word and syntax and the cadence of sound, but that’s not true. Story – as a structure, as an art form, as an organism, as a thing that feeds and grows and multiplies and thrives – is wholly separate from language. Language is the medium that we often use to get at the heart of the story, but it’s a blunt tool most of the time. Language winds around the story, it catches it like butterfly nets or fish hooks or cages, but language is not the story. The story is the story.

I was having a conversation with some other writers recently on Twitter about outlining. I am not an outliner – and when I have made some attempts at outlining, I ended up killing the book that I wanted to write.

(there are dead novels in my desk drawers. They are mummified corpses. They are partially created frankensteins, that will never draw breath.)

But I wonder – I really wonder – if a pictoral outline would be a more effective tool. One of the lovely things about that flip book is that the story felt unbound. It unfolded in my head; it wrote itself in my heart. Perhaps I need to try my hand at unbound outlining.

If anything else, I think I would enjoy it very much.

6 thoughts on “I wish all of my stories were like this:

  1. I love outlines. I change them a lot, but they help me keep track of the big picture and not get lost in my sentences.
    The evil vine was a nice touch in the flip book story.

  2. I think of the story as the water and language as the bucket. The bucket shapes the water. It contains it. It allows it to be handed off from one person to another. But you can’t drink the bucket.

  3. That was cool. I need to share it.

    My day job is working in print advertising. We consider each space a place to tell a story, or show an idea. Each idea has about 3 seconds of a viewer’s attention. If you can’t tell it to them in that much time, you’ve lost. They’ve moved on. They drove by. Needless to say, its an interesting challenge.

    A pictorial outline sounds like storyboarding to me. They’re very useful when telling stories with pictures, like in a movie. Perhaps you are very visually centered in your thinking. A visual tool might help you hold the ideas in your head differently/better.

    I’ve written by both outlining, and not outlining. So far outlining has consistently produced better stories for me. Then again my outlines are pretty darn loose. They read more like notes from a lecture, with lots of short notations and little quips. Often I add in short snippets of dialog to help me express a concept. They are almost always very rough, with lots of room for detail as the story emerges.

    Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that I keep track of words in my head in an more abstract way. I can’t remember concrete things like how they are spelled, but I am happy to have a word associated with a nonsense meaning, or even better, hold an unclear or abstract meaning.

  4. I love this post, and I ADORE the little illustrated book.

    I was a dancer before I became a wife and mother and writer. I learned to tell stories with my body – every step became a word, punctuated by expression and gesture. We even spoke of “phrases” in the dance.

    And now I am writing a story about a dancer, using words to express a story that has no words, trying to pin nuance and movement to a stationary page, caging it in ink. It is… a challenge, and is teaching me entirely new ways of thinking about story.

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