Mapping Your Story: A Creative Writing Workshop
This two-part workshop is for writers with a story to tell who wonder how best to tell it, where to begin, and how to discipline themselves while writing. The idea of mapping a story is to give structure to the writing process. The goal of the workshop is to encourage and focus writers as they create a map and a key of sorts from which to write a first draft.
Dr. Choquet divided the presentation into three parts:
1) An inspirational overview of the writing process and discussion of her experience writing her first novel.
2) A guided meditation to calm the mind and allow participants to access the truth of the story within their hearts. (Meditation guide at bottom of this post)
3) The creation of story maps during which Dr. Choquet answered questions.
The act of storytelling is an act of generosity. You are giving a part of yourself to the people who hear/read your story. Your story will also give back to you as you create it. As Dr. Choquet said, “creativity and generosity thrive together.”
Mapping is an exercise in ownership of space (think of the explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci whose influence led to the naming of the American continents). By mapping your story you will find that you have a clearer sense of its direction and purpose. The most important thing to remember in the creation of your map is that there is no wrong or right way to create your map.
What you need to create your map:
1) A place where you can concentrate.
2) A large piece of paper.
3) Your choice of pens, markers, pencils, crayons, glitter, etc.
4) A snack or treat is also fun!
When creating your map, you are discovering the journey of your story, and that journey may take many forms: a map of geographical locations, the shape of an object, a timeline, a web, or anything else that feels right to you.
Questions to ask yourself when creating your map (the key):
1) Where does your story start?
2) Where does it end?
3) What physical locations/points in time are important to your story?
4) Why do you want to tell this story?
5) Who do you want to tell this story to?
6) Who is telling this story? Who is the narrator?
7) What do you want to give with this story?
8) What do your characters want?
9) What do you want this story to do to your reader? To you? To the characters within it?
10) Imagine the reader finishing your story. What would you like them to say about it?
Most importantly, don’t rush yourself and give yourself the time to really focus. Likewise, don’t overthink. Your first instinct is often your best. This is only the first step on your journey as a storyteller, and there’s always time to change and refine later.
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I always begin with deep belly breathing, in and out through the nose, for at least counts of five, both inhalation and exhalation. This time, Wednesday eve, I brought fire to the belly, imagining a fire glowing there, and steadily, with breath, tending the flame. At a certain point, when it feels time, I tell people to imagine a gold ball (I like to work with gold) spinning at their tailbone. And from there, with timing that feels right all the way through, I guide that ball through the legs to the bottom of the feet, shooting golden roots to the center of the earth, and back up through the body to the crown feeling the golden rays moving out as well as in from above, I especially like to work with gold in the hands and fingers before writing. I eventually guide people to their heart, and to imagine themselves small, standing at the altar of their heart. For this workshop, I then, after some time of guiding people to see their story as they stand there at the altar of the heart, to hear it whispering to them, I tell them to place this story they want to tell on the altar, all of it, in whatever form it comes. I eventually tell them to open their eyes and write where the story begins. To close their eyes, to see it and hear it again, and then to open their eyes and write where it ends. After that, I tell them to fill the page with it. At that point the guided meditation ends and it becomes a meditation in creativity for each person. The overall idea is to feel the energy inside oneself, to feel the connection to earth and ether, to enter one's heart and claim that space as one's own, to feel the electricity in the body and to create with it.