Storytelling Techniques

Well that was quite a long interlude. Apologies for the delay in posting I was away for a little bit in the South East Asian world (and loved it) and did not really have the time or resources to post from that side of the world. However, I am now back again!

Instead of continuing to expand the education around building one’s own website, I have decided to go down a different route for this post. I will be dipping my foot into methods of storytelling, be it in written or visual form (mainly motion picture type). In person storytelling is something rather different and I have yet to think about that one properly, so I’m going to leave out in this post. The reason I want tp write about this is because I needed a break from analysing and dissecting websites have been fascinated by how stories are told. And I have been meaning to research this a bit more in order to be able to write great stories myself! Here is what I have discovered thus far:

There are only handful of techniques used in written and visual story telling. And they seem to be incredibly simple. Sometimes they are used in a singular form, other times they are combined and blended. It really depends on what type of story is being told and how many perspectives there are (e.g. there may be one main character and two or three side characters whose perspective the author uses to develop the plot).

The simplest form of storytelling is chronological. The vast majority of stories are told in chronological order as they are easy for the reader to follow. One popular example is the Harry Potter story (with exceptions of a few sections in the later books where some chapters go back in time). The story in a nutshell consists of Harry growing up and moving from 1st year to 2nd year to 3rd year etc in Hogwarts. Nothing overly complex and the story is easy to follow.

Then there is what I like to call the peel technique (leaning on the imagery of peeling a banana or an onion). The bulk of the story happens in chronological order, but occasionally the author reveals some key aspects about the main character. The manner in which this may happen obviously depends on how the story is narrated (1st person, 3rd person?). The key thing about this technique and why I enjoy it, is that often the chapters or sections, where some details about the characters past or certain key parts of the story are revealed, contain very juicy details. So in the case of Harry Potter, I very much enjoyed the sections where the perspective was shifted to Voldemort and the reader got glimpses of who his mysterious aids were as well as the revelation of his favourite choc chip cookie recipe.

A variant of the peel storytelling technique is the flashback method. This one is very similar though I’d prefer to differentiate from the peel because often the main characters in these stories have something to hide. They could have had a trauma and/or have suppressed memories. Or they could be a dark dark person with dark dark deeds done in the past that are gradually uncovered throughout the story. Examples in this category include Batman Begins who’s still terribly mad about having fallen down that manhole.

The above three methods are the most common methods that I see employed. Obviously there are tons and tons of variants as stories are often told from the perspectives of many different characters. The possibilities truly are limitless!
I also wanted to add one little thing that annoys me most about books I read and/or films I watch:  I really find it annoying when the author devotes a large section of the story to a character’s dreams. Maybe it’s just me, but I get truly bored reading about some character’s dreams. The reader is already in a day dream of sorts when reading. They imagine the story unfold, then on top they have to force themselves to imagine a dream of a dream? That’s all a bit too much for me and I often find that it detracts from the actual story. I prefer just reading about the plot unfolding rather than about the character’s dreams, even if it is some sort of foreshadowing of events to come.

Anyhow, I just wanted to share some of the thoughts I had about storytelling/writing. Do you agree with this? Is there another very obvious technique of storytelling I have left out? Happy to hear all thoughts!

Happy Monday!

Setting up WordPress

So now that wordpress has been installed, we can have a look at setting up wordpress and running some of the most important features included in this software package. You will have allready had to pick a URL for the admin page when installing the software. I probably should have said this in a previous post, but I’d recommend not setting the Admin page as your main page, because you can mess the site up big time. This is what happened to me.  I didn’t realise what I was doing and set up my admin page under chriswinterhoff.com. It backfired massively as you can imagine, visitors would see the administrator log in screen  as opposed to the wonderful content I was about to post. And the best thing was … I couldn’t figure it out after an hour of hunting in the wordpress settings, consulting google and searching the C-panel. In the end I had to remove WordPress and reinstall it again. This time I was wiser though: If you set it up as [your domain].com/wp-admin/ you’ll have a nice and clean entry point to write your future blog posts. In fact I even think it is the default setting when installing the software… oh I wish I would learn not to fiddle with default settings.

Anyhow, the first thing to note is that when you sign up and log in, you’ll get to the “dashboard”. This is the menu of the whole wordpress software and allows you to navigate between different plugins, widgest, settings and most importantly, manage the content of your site.

When  you signed up you will have also noticed that WordPress asked you to pick a username, which if you were thinking like me, you would assume it wouldn’t be visible on the actual blog. Think again! I made the mistake of signing up with a username I invented when I must have been 11. When I did finally post my first blog post I was horrified to find that it had been written by ollo123. Now you might thank, that’s a bit more interesting than just using the name Chris, but if you’re trying to build something semi serious, Ollo123 doesn’t quite cut it. I changed it by hitting the top right button where it says Howdy, [username].
Once you open that window, you can scroll down and change some of your username settings. However, the actual username you signed up with cannot ever be changed. Ohhh noo, you shall forever be known as littleprincess86 or spookmastaaa  (hehe, hello Patrick!) or Ollo123! Joookes, of course you can change what your name appears as under the “nickname” section. Having your real name will naturally give you some social validity with your audience though you may want to build a different kind of rapport… really depends what kind of site you are building!

Under the settings tab you can also set up an email address for anything admin related. I would recommend using something dead simple such as admin@chriswinterhoff.com. It doesn’t really matter what you put down, because you can always autoforward any email to your normal email address. However, it just keeps everything neat for you and I like to be able to have everything organised like that  🙂

The last important thing to mention is the appearance of the blog. The theme of my blog is currently very bland and boring, yet incredibly simple and that’s why I like it. I will change it at some point in the next few weks and will show you how you can purchase or install a difference theme that does not come with worpress automatically.  But for now this will do.
Wordpress does come with a few free themes that you can install very easily.  On the left hand side, selecting the Appearance tab followed by the Themes button will reveal a few themes you can select for your blogpost. Having an aesthetically pleasing blog will help you rank much higher in search engines, so it’s not something to snuff at. Google uses site design and feel in order to filter out the serious from the non-serious blogs/websites. So it basically translates into this: if you look after your site, it is moree likely that you also post good content. But at the start of your blogging adventure, this is fairly irrelevant as you should be focussing on getting to know all the blogging features.

That’s it, those are the most important features to get you going and enable you to post away. Hopefully I haven’t missed anything, but please shout if I have!

Happy Monday!