Take a look at this brand new blog post from Story Power author Kate Farrell!
Would you like to book a tour to a faraway place? Ready to travel again, but not sure when or where it’s safe?
Come with us on an adventure storytelling tour and enjoy armchair travels this Wednesday, Feb 10th, at the Writers Forum. Hear adventure tales from Kate Farrell, Lisa Alpine, and Mary Mackey, and a few from the audience. FREE! Just pull up a chair and log in. Learn to relive and tell your own travel stories: Writers Forum, 6:30 – 8:00 pm, PST
How do we create compelling stories from the hundreds of photos, videos, and impressions we’ve gathered from our latest trip or adventure? In a counter-intuitive process, it is better to focus on the people, not the places. Use your laser eye to zoom in on a dramatic moment of tension with the people you met or with your travel mates.
If you simply arrange a commentary around your itinerary with a slide show of photos, you will flatten the storyline. Describing when and where you went, step-by-step, will only bore your listeners: You will not have reflected on your experience in a way to deepen your own experience and theirs.
As you recall the people in your travels, think of their dialogue, the way they spoke, their personalities and style. Even if you don’t use all these details, you’ll be able to select some. Once you shift your focus to the people, and not the places, you’ll have the beginnings of a good tale.
As you search through your adventurous memories, let them play on your inner movie screen. Which people catch your eye? Which characters, not places, are the most compelling—then consider what made them so memorable. They might have said something wise or were part of a crisis or an unforgettable moment.
For an adventure story to have the essential elements for telling, answer these questions:
-What was the most dramatic moment of your trip?
-People: Who was there? Describe.
-Who or what threatened your life or well-being?
-What was said? Recall dialogue.
-Sensory details: Recall tastes, smells, textures, sounds.
-What was the narrative arc: conflict, rising action, resolution?
-What did you learn or question?
If your memory can’t provide these elements, then it is only a vignette, not a full-blown tale.
Compare a throw-away fragment to this memory that centers on the people who were in my trip to the Galapagos on 72-foot sloop, a sailboat that traveled between islands on a two week tour.
To pay my way, I was the escort guide for our group of nine, though we were also accompanied by a naturalist guide, and of course, the boat’s captain and crew.
Notice that the characters, their issues and conflicts are the drama, while the islands are a backdrop. Ideally, the location in an adventure story could become an essential part of the action, even another character, due to its symbolic or historic meaning.
Christmas Cruise, Galapagos, 1980
“Mutiny!” they cried as they approached me on the sloop’s main deck. “We’re going to mutiny!” I’d watched a group of four emerge from the cabin, and pick their way across the swaying boat in the dark. No place to hide—I listened to their complaints, while pulling up my halter top in the sea breeze.
“Why should we be stuck out here on Christmas Eve—abandoned by our naturist guide?” Irene said.
” Yeah, all the guides anchored their boats so they could go ashore and party. That’s just not right.” Her friend agreed.
We were among several tour boats anchored off the island of Santa Cruz, in the Galapagos Archipelago, one of the most remote spots on Earth, where Darwin had developed his theories of evolution.
“So, what do you expect me to do?” As their appointed escort guide, and the only one who spoke passable Spanish, I glanced around uneasily.
“Hear those drums? We’re going dancing! There’s a rooftop bar with live music over in Puerto Ayora. Check this out!” Dan urged me to look through his high-powered binoculars across the water.
“Okay, okay! I’ll go find the capitán. I’ll see if somebody can take us over in the panga. But it’s probably going to cost us.” Minutes later, I threw on a summer dress, and the five of us went roaring across the quiet waters of Academy Bay in the outboard—the capitán pocketing our money and depositing us on a wooden dock.
Seated on tree stumps around a small table on the uneven rooftop, we drank beer on the sultry night, toasting our mutinous success. Changing partners, we danced to the band and a lively drum beat. Our beers became rum and Coke. But when the club closed down just before midnight Mass, we wandered the deserted island paths while the church bells rang for Christmas.
Irene stumbled on the rocks. “Oh NOOO, he’ll be singing in the cathedral now.” Irene wept for her gay friend who sang with her in a symphony chorus. “He’ll never love me as I love him.” Her wails pierced the still night.
“Shush. It’s time to meet capitán at the dock,” I said. Subdued, we walked to the dock and waited, and waited. No one came—we were stranded again.
Now what? I knew they expected me to do something. They moved away as a solitary woman, an Ecuadorian, dressed in black with a long braid of black hair, walked to the end of the dock. I greeted her in my halting Spanish, and told her we were stuck.
She was shy, kind, and whispered, “Mi esposo viene—te llevará.”
I expressed my gratitude, that her husband could give us a ride back to the boat, and beckoned to my group. A thick mist was forming over the water, and I strained to hear the guttural sound of a motorboat.
But it was a longboat that appeared silently through the mist, rowed by none other than the legendary Gus Angermeyer—one of the original settlers, a German who had fled the Nazis, back in the ’30s. I suppose I gushed as we clambered aboard, effusive in my thanks when we reached the sloop.
“Ach! You talk too much.” Gus smiled. I took that to mean, don’t mention it.
On board, I went searching for the capitán. I found him in the pilothouse, weeping over his estranged esposa and familia. Overcome with emotion and drink, he was beyond scolding. Frustrated, I returned to the main deck, alone, pondering the night’s events and human evolution.
Is yearning part of evolution? Do we always want what we can’t have? Is that why we wiggled out of the sea on rubbery legs: because we yearned for more, because we wanted to dance, sing, love?
Or maybe—we just talk too much.
Source: Story Power: Secrets to Creating, Crafting, and Telling Memorable Stories by Kate Farrell, Mango Publishing, 2020.
Learn more: Story Power is on the shelf now at Copperfields Petaluma!
Secrets to Creating, Crafting, and Telling Memorable Stories
Stories are everywhere. The art of storytelling has been around as long as humans have. And in today’s noisy, techy, automated world, storytelling is not only prevalent—it’s vital. Whether you’re interested in enlivening conversation, building your business brand, sharing family wisdom, or performing on stage, Story Power will show you how to make use of a good story.