Pondering: Stories Not Accounts

Chatting with Island Storytellers convener Sue Bailey last week, I commented that I really need to put more time into getting the end of the stories I try to tell much tighter. If you have a good opening, and a really strong ending, then you can generally get from one to the other. But if the ending isn’t as solid as it should be, you start to worry about how to close as you get closer to it, and may even finish without anyone realising.

A good title can also help, and often captures a key scene or storypoint from somewhere in the middle.

We also chatted about sourcing stories from local histories. I’ve started trying to pull together a small set of Island history stories I can tell, and I’ve also got a longer tale about the Yorkshire Luddites; but as much as anything, they’re told as accounts rather than stories (thanks to Sue for introducing the distinction of an account into the discussion).

So pondering a handful of stories I’ve not quite got round to pulling together yet into a form that I can tell, I think I’m going to have a go at quickly summarising first the account, which will give me lots of facts and footnotes and depth behind the tale, and then try to to turn them into stories by taking a particular perspective – a particular person, or place, or animal, for example – whose journey we can follow (because a good story is often about something or someone).

For my own reference (so I can keep track of progress, as much as anything), the tales I’ll work on are:

  • the wrecking of the St Mary and the building of The Pepperpot by Walter de Godeton; this could be told from de Godeton’s perpective, but it might also be interesting to try it as a story about a barrel of communion wine, or the Abbey that was expecting the wine…; [story and account]
  • when the Island invaded France, a tale of Sir Edward Woodville (probably; or maybe a story about Diccon Cheke, the sole returning survivor…);
  • The Worsley trial: it could be interesting to be able to tell this two ways: as a story about Richard Worsley, or a story about Seymour Fleming;
  • Odo’s gold, perhaps from the perspective of Odo, perhaps from the perspective of Carisbrooke Castle…

I’m also going to have a go at recasting my Yorkshire Luddite account, I think as a story about George Mellor…

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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