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Different Forms of Storytelling by Denise M. Colby

March 12, 2018 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as ,

Different Forms of Storytelling by Denise M. Colby | A Slice of Orange


…Are Not All That Different


I started writing this post with a simple topic given how busy I am, yet it quickly turned into a deep-thought, look inside my heart observation.

Since December, I’ve been choreographing and assistant directing Beauty & the Beast, Jr at my son’s school.  All fifty-five (55) 5th-8th graders and one-hundred twenty-six K-4th graders.  Yep, you read that correctly —181 kids.

This is my sixth show. I love to create an overall vision in my head, work with each piece one by one, then put them all together at the end to entertain and tell a beautiful story.  Sharing the experience of live theater with these kids is so much fun. And it’s been a blessing to do this over these years with all three of my sons when they have been at school here (my youngest is cast as Cogsworth this year).

I work with three other wonderful women and a whole slew of volunteers to be able to pull this off.  Lots of layers.  Lots of details.  Staging, sets, costumes, make-up, shoes, and so much more.  All parts of the whole in the musical theater form of storytelling.  Much like writing a book.

My very first blog post on A Slice of Orange, was on this three years ago.  About how each piece matches setting, POV, dialogue and more.  I talked about my confidence growing year over year each time I do one of these shows and that it’s the same with my writing.


In my mind, both forms tell a story to an audience. And thus I should approach both the same.


But as I was writing these words, another thought intruded.


I’m not alone in creating this wonderful masterpiece of a show.  I have help. 


As I’ve taught the kids their steps and where they stand or move, the drama director talks with them about their acting and the music director works on their singing.  I am one of many to pull this off and I have no problem showing what I’ve created to the team, asking for feedback and together figuring out what should change.


Why then, is it so difficult for me to ask for help with my writing? 


It should be the same thing.  I do not need to work alone to create my manuscript.  There are people who are willing and able to help me.  I can learn and grow from working with others, especially if I’m sharing my words with people who are stronger in the areas I am not.


As I sit and ponder this a while, I realize words are very personal to me.  I’m a journal writer and I love to write what I’m thinking or feeling.  Thoughts and feelings are not wrong – they are real.  Before I write something, I listen to my heart, what I feel, what I believe and then put words on a page.


However there are patterns and formulas and specific skills to writing a novel and all those elements need to be in there as well.  The longer I’ve been working on this, the more my brain understands the rules, patterns, and formulas for fiction writing.  To put in the specific elements in order for it to become a viable readable story.  That it’s not about my thoughts and feelings.


My brain seems to understand it, but my heart still takes what I write very personal.


Deep down, my stubborn pride wants to do all of this by myself. To try to put it in perfect order before I share it with someone.


Why do I do this?


I don’t have an answer to that yet.  But maybe I can try to understand a little better.


I have been choreographing and dancing longer than I’ve been writing fiction.  And I believe I’m more of a natural with it, than I am with the writing.


But, I want to be a natural writer.  Just sit down and write it all out.  But when I think about it, I’ve been studying dance all my life.


And I understand the nitty, gritty details that makes a good dance number.


I’m still learning the nitty, gritty details that go into writing a fictional story.


Also, I have put hours into dissecting the music and characters and how they move and the timing before I taught the kids anything. And when something didn’t work I have gone back and reworked it.


Am I putting that same type of focus and time into my writing? 


Do I study my manuscript word for word to make sure it is the best it can be?


See, I told you I was doing some deep soul-searching.  I love to write like this. It actually comes easier to me than writing a made-up story.  So, maybe if I accept this about myself, I’ll have an easier time being open to learning and sharing my writing—all to make the stories in my head and heart be able to come to fruition.  Which is ultimately the goal.  Not for my writing to be perfect, but for my stories to be published, presented, performed…I think you get the picture.


Do you have something you struggle with in your writing?


Is it difficult for you to share your words with others?


I would love to hear from you. (And If I don’t respond right away, it’s because I’m backstage working a show this week.)




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