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10 Tips on finding stories in everyday life

For the last two weeks, I have been talking about everyday stories. Here are my tips on finding stories in your daily lives. 1.       Become a collector of stories. You will not only find enjoyment every time you read them but also will learn how to write them. Stories are all around you, in newspapers, […]

For the last two weeks, I have been talking about everyday stories. Here are my tips on finding stories in your daily lives.

1.       Become a collector of stories. You will not only find enjoyment every time you read them but also will learn how to write them. Stories are all around you, in newspapers, magazines, books, TV, internet. As Austin Kleon quite wittily points out that you might be able to write a popular brain book with them.

“Here is a recipe for writing a hit popular brain book. You start each chapter with a pet anecdote about an individual’s professional or entrepreneurial success, or narrow escape from peril. You then mine the neuroscientific research for an apparently relevant specific result and narrate the experiment, perhaps interviewing the scientist involved and describing his hair. You then climax in a fit of premature extrapolation, inferring from the scientific result a calming bromide about what it is to function optimally as a modern human being. Voilà, a laboratory-sanctioned Big Idea in digestible narrative form. This is what the psychologist Christopher Chabris has named the “story-study-lesson” model, perhaps first perfected by Malcolm Gladwell. A series of these threesomes may be packaged into a book, and then resold again and again as a stand-up act on the wonderfully lucrative corporate lecture circuit.”

2.       Learn to observe like Martha Sweeny or Jean George in my earlier posts A story that will touch your heart and Evoke the senses with your writing. Both stories are about life’s little moments captured by writers’ keen observations.

3.       Talk to people. In shops, at community places, in libraries or wherever you can find them. Ask specific questions and you will find they are more than willing to tell their stories.

4.       Go looking for them, like the one below, which I wrote once walking through the woods.

“At about two-third of the hill, I had a perfect view of the dried Lake George, now covered with brown grass. The tall windmills on the surrounding hills stood as sentries as if guarding the lake’s treasure now that it was bare.  The slop at the back of the hill, from where I was standing, was covered with trees and broken branches. It was new terrain, quite unfamiliar.

The path I was following was covered by yellow leaves shed by nearby trees. A butterfly came and sat on my cheek. I jerked and it flew away. I should have stood still and feel the touch of its tiny legs. Moments later a tiny lizard blocked my way. This time I stood still. It stood there for a moment, looking at me. I held my breath and waited. This was her domain. I was an intruder. I had no right to be there uninvited. She moved her head at an angle, had a final look, and then disappeared under a nearby log. I took it as a sign of acceptance. From that point on I felt I was part of the landscape, as much as that tiny lizard was.” 

5.       Use triggers to access stories in your memory bank. Like the story, my father’s hands triggered.

6.       Look for a change in your life – where ever there was a change there is a story waiting to be told.

7.       Interview interesting people. A blogger made a very interesting blog by interviewing women she met in her local shopping center.

8.       Talk to old people, they are walking repositories of stories.

A grandchild playing with his nana pointed at her wrinkles and said, ‘They are ugly.’ Nana laughed and said, “Oh no! Each one has a story.” The child hesitated and then shyly pointed at one of them. ‘Tell me about that one.’

9.       Listen to TED talks, subscribe to sites, and read about men and women who inspire you.

“Michelle Obama, a symbol for women, has successfully balanced the needs of her family and herself. Sky-high popularity, comfortable in her skin, now struggling against, not caved into nation’s expectations. Smart as Eleanor Roosevelt, glamorous as Jacqueline Kennedy and devoted as Nancy Reagan, pitch-perfect fashion sense, genuine smile, and fierce intelligence, not striving for perfection but by embracing her own authenticity. Every bit of her is saying, I am going to try to be honest, hopefully, funny and open, and share important parts of me with people.

10.   Research them. Every achievement, every invention, every successful event has a story behind them. You will find inspirational nuggets like the one below:

Here is a recipe for writing a hit popular brain book. You start each chapter with a pet anecdote about an individual’s professional or entrepreneurial success, or a narrow escape from peril. You then mine the neuroscientific research for an apparently relevant specific result and narrate the experiment, perhaps interviewing the scientist involved and describing his hair. You then climax in a fit of premature extrapolation, inferring from the scientific result a calming bromide about what it is to function optimally as a modern human being. Voilà, a laboratory-sanctioned Big Idea in digestible narrative form. This is what the psychologist Christopher Chabris has named the “story-study-lesson” model, perhaps first perfected by Malcolm Gladwell. A series of these threesomes may be packaged into a book, and then resold again and again as a stand-up act on the wonderfully lucrative corporate lecture circuit.”

everyday stories, short stories, Writer, Writing