What is the shape of your story?

The third week of the “What If” writing marathon intended to inspire both with my first year writing students and the Just Write virtual writing group explored the shape of our stories. This creative work built on the Who Are You? and Where Are You From? writing we did the weeks before (see Who Are You? for more about the What If unit and inspiration).

Just as stories often feature certain types of characters (the archetypes of the hero’s journey), we also see many common shapes for stories. Kurt Vonnegut offers some thoughts about the shapes of stories. However, certain shapes also play an important role in our stories. We explored Lady Jordan by Denice Frohman for inspiration. Finally, our first freewriting session explored how the stories we tell shape us.

When considering the shapes of our stories it is also important to consider the turning points in our lives. We drew our inspiration from the work of spoken word poet Jon Jorgenson, the story of Steven Claunch, and Curriculum of the Mind. We also drew inspiration from considering these ideas:

  • Think of the chain of events in your own story up to this point. What turning point or roadblock sticks out to you? What challenges have you overcome?
  • Circle one point of time on the shape of your story. Take a couple of minutes and describe what you see there. Provide details about the who, what, where, when, why, and perhaps how.
  • Share the context about a turning point in your life. Be as honest or veiled in your response as you would like.
  • The challenge in relating this to our own lives is knowing that the outcome could be positive or negative after the turning point. There is also the challenge of identifying the climax of our story as we’re still living it. It’s also hard to foretell the future and know whether the outcome will be positive or negative before the conclusion of our story.
  • Keep in mind that you may be trapped in the system as you are “told you belong in one and shown you don’t belong in the other.”

Just as with the Who Are You? and Where Are You From? prompts, we created artifacts (human-made objects of significance) to share with our class community or via social media as part of the #WalkMyWorld community which focused on shapes and turning points for these learning experiences. Depending on our capacity and writing, those artifacts might simply include shapes or images of shapes or could use the shapes (think infographics) to create their artifact. Just like my students, you are invited to write and create as much as you like based on your current capacity. The important thing is to reflect, write, and create something that tells your story even if the only audience is yourself.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay