Observation Journal — 31 ways with a story

On this page of the observation journal, I revisited the 20 Things approach (see Observation Journal — 20 Ways with Gold Foil).

Scan of a handwritten observation journal spread. Left page has five things seen, heard, and done, and a picture. The right page has a list of 31 ways to deal with a story.

(Left page: “over-caffeinated, guilty and disconnected” — it was early April 2020)

On the right page, I was working through an idea I was developing for an illustrated story. I wanted to shake loose the possible shape of it. In the end I scripted and thumbnailed the idea as a comic — an approach that isn’t even on this list, although thinking through the list contributed to that shape. (The current status of the project is In The Queue.)

The 24th idea is where I started looking around my bookshelves for inspiration. And again, I’ve found this approach more useful with a very specific question. In this case, it was still a little diffuse. But it was a useful way to sort through both the possibilities of the story, what I did and didn’t know about it or want for it, and match that with my mental library of ways stories like this could be told.

Handwritten observation journal page listing 31 ways to do a story.

Here’s the list. Note: It’s obviously personal to my interests and not comprehensive! The idea was a theatre-based ghost story — if you use this list for ideas, replace “ghost”, “theatre” etc with appropriate nouns.

  1. Riso prints (there was a residency I was looking into)
  2. Cards — myriorama
  3. Cards — a la The Family Arcana
  4. Fold out/diorama
  5. Pop-up
  6. Transparent layers — strip away to reveal truth
  7. Accordion-fold/frieze
  8. Stand-alone book — beautiful
  9. Zine — quick & rough
  10. Collection — disparate — of illustrated stories
  11. In a collection of prose stories
  12. In a collection with a thematic through-line
  13. Chapbook series about characters/family
  14. “Adventures of a Ghost”
  15. Black and white/noir
  16. Full colour/painted
  17. In parallel with another/someone else’s story
  18. In parallel with score for music from the play
  19. As a script for the play
  20. Plays within plays (a la “The Town in the Library…”)
  21. Only ever alluded to in another story
  22. Recounted by a 3rd party/other after the event
  23. Omniscient viewpoint
  24. Evocative line + picture per page = feel discrete BUT connect
  25. Series
  26. Article a la a ’30s advice column
  27. Epistolary — postcards home
  28. Set in a very different era
  29. Different realities — a tumbling block of world/story (many doors)
  30. A commonplace book of a character
  31. Map of travels (and times?)
Very small drawing of a dog, with Lucky written underneath.
Dog on Zoom

Art/Writing exercises:

  • I put the general 20 Things exercises on the previous post: Observation Journal — 20 Ways with Gold Foil.
  • For this variant:
    • pick a story/image you are working on (or one you like),
    • list 20 different ways to tell it (or run it through this list), then
    • consider how each approach would change it, and
    • note which of those changes appeal to you or start off new trains of thought.

1 thought on “Observation Journal — 31 ways with a story

  1. Pingback: February 2021 — round-up of posts | Kathleen Jennings

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