The Virtue of Words with Pictures

A few months a back, I attended a meeting at the local chapter of a national organization devoted to training. The subject of that month’s meeting was “storytelling.” After chapter business and the box lunches were done, the facilitator introduced the topic and then invited four or five training professionals to tell their “stories.”

A story has a narrative, usually builds to a point and often contains a theme or lesson. These did not. These were extended elevator speeches designed around each person’s career development. There was a chronology but no theme or lesson.

I’ve used stories in writing one-act plays, video scripts, collateral materials for clients and even magazine articles, like the woman who spent years and money learning how to be an artist until one day she had an epiphany and realized what she was really preparing herself to open and manage an art gallery.

Good storytelling has something the reader, or listener, or viewer can take away. What’s one takeaway from Prairie Home Companion? “Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

So I’m at the local library which I visit often to browse the new release racks. One small book catches my eye. It’s Make Your Own Picture Stories for Kids with ASD by Brian Attwood. His son has ASD and he can be difficult to deal with if he is uncertain of what is happening or going to happen. Here are the author’s comments. .

Keen to help my wife who was bearing the brunt of it, I took a pen and a sheet of A4 paper and began doing my story. Simple little figures, the shortest sentences, with as many of those words as possible in speech bubbles or images. A straightforward narrative that explained what was happening, what the end results would be, and depicting a happy, safe outcome.

It took time to get his attention but we started to read it slowly to him, his son joined in and began smiling. He calmed down. He understood.

We didn’t realize straight away what we had stumbled on. It took several more such tantrums before we started to make our picture stories a first, rather than a last, resort.

My take away from the training session was that most anyone can recite a resume. My stories, I like to think, entertained and also suggested that much is possible if you put your mind to it. But the takeaway with Attwood’s piece was that story telling could help their son deal with a world which he did not always comprehend. To me, that is storytelling with a real purpose.

Comments welcomed!

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About Bob McCarthy

Originally from the Northeast, I now call Southwest Florida home. I have been a professional copywriter and editor since 1979, both freelance and in house. I have had article published in regional, national and international magazines. Plus, a video for which I wrote the script won an industry award as Best Training Video.
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