Storytelling // Where to Start

I’ve been writing a series of Storytelling posts lately and will be sharing them as quickly as I can get around to editing. Some of it is just to sort out my own thoughts on the subject. I often see questions posed by other memory keepers of how to tell a certain story, so I hope some of what I have learned through this hobby will help someone else.

storytelling,, the papergoddess, scrapbooking, memory keeping, journaling, ancestry, stories, questions

Writing & reading & creative expression have been major players in my life for as long as I can remember.

Memory keeping for me has become the act of preserving stories through photographs, written words, and artifacts.

The more I navigate my way through this hobby, I am searching for more, for the deeper undercurrent to it all. And it always comes back to the story. Giving life and feeling to a snapshot in time. Or even sharing words without a photo.

I think as scrapbookers, we all start from a place where we have a photo of someone we love blowing out candles on a birthday cake and we caption the photo or layout with the title “Happy Birthday.” There is nothing wrong with that. The idea that someone is interested in memory keeping to begin with shows the depths of their soul and their commitment to a future where the past matters.

But now I often ask myself, what more can I say? What more can I tell? Maybe about this person or the moment?

Even posting a photo on Instagram. It’s easy to say my morning coffee, but think of how the story changes if it’s captioned a warm way to start my day.

In some ways I think it’s ok to embellish stories a bit. I mean, it’s happened for all of history. Just like playing the telephone game, when it gets to the last person, it’s always a little bit different. You don’t want to completely falsify it, but just imagine if J.K. Rowling had only said there was a boy with brown hair and he does magical things. Guessing we wouldn’t know the enchanting world of Harry Potter.

These are some questions I ask myself to try to reach beyond what I see in the photo and share a more meaningful story…

  • How do I feel about the person in the photo?
  • What is in the scene but not captured in the photo? What is just beyond the edge?
  • Describe the smells, tastes, or other physical feelings that were alerted in this moment.
  • What song was playing? (I use this one a lot, constantly adding lyrics to my layouts. It also doesn’t necessarily have to be playing in real life, but maybe the song that popped in your head & was somewhat of a soundtrack for the moment.)
  • What emotions do the colors evoke?
  • Can you share a poem, quote, lyrics related to the color or object?
  • What season is this photo/story taking place in? It can be the weather related seasons or the seasons of life (youth, adolescence, early adulthood, etc.)
  • Does this photo/story invoke a reflection into something of the past? A childhood memory or early relationship event.
  • If some future relative is looking at this scrapbook, what do I really want them to know? What feelings do I want them have about it? What message am I trying to convey?

I think also keeping in mind it doesn’t have to be a perfect narrative with accurate grammar & punctuation. It can be how I talk. It can be bulleted points or maybe strips of paper with various thoughts. A lot of times what I want to say/share is not a perfectly structured story in my mind or in real life. So there’s a dynamic to it. Tell the story. Start somewhere and it will flow.


2 thoughts on “Storytelling // Where to Start

  1. Patty, I love this post. So spot on. Journalling/Storytelling is something I have always struggled with, to the point I actually have to go back through my scrapbooks an add journalling. I can TELL a great story, but I have the hardest time WRITING the story. Great bullet points in your post.


    1. It is hard to put it all into written words sometimes. And sometimes, like with my last layout, I just don’t really have a story. So a quick caption can work as well. I think as long as we put the important-to-us stories somewhere, even if it is just a journal or even journal app.


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