26 Fruits

 

Making stories

IMG_2047An inspiring week away with a new group of Dark Angels. We gathered at Moniack Mhor in the Scottish Highlands on Monday afternoon and flew away on Saturday morning. We filled the time with words, stories, laughter, companionship and a whole range of emotions. Scott, making his way back to Dublin via Aberdeen, sent this haiku:

Vivid reds, earthy browns

In reverse I travel sated

Words, glorious, words.

 

One exercise, perhaps slightly overlooked in the emotional roller-coaster of the week, uses a classic storytelling structure to create a brief for advertising. Drawing on Homer’s Odyssey, five stages are described, five questions asked then answered with a single sentence each. Put the five sentences together and you have a succinct paragraph that sets out clearly what you want to achieve. So I thought I’d use the same structure to describe the Dark Angels experience, setting out what we aim to achieve.

 

Stage 1   Problem

“We want writers to be able to put more of their individual humanity into their writing for work.”

Our group came from all parts of the British isles – people who work in consultancy, internal communications, fundraising, marketing, e-learning, copywriting. All need to write. All want to write more effectively and to get more enjoyment from their writing. Our first day focuses on putting more personality into your words at work, using exercises based on fiction, poetry, memoirs. There’s a palpable sense of engagement.

 

Stage 2   Doubt

“But often they lack confidence and feel they are not given permission to write expressively at work.”

 

We provide more techniques that draw on people’s emotions, introduce the idea of writing a final evening’s ‘personal piece’, and tap into the power of individual words. By this point, we have faced people’s doubts, talking individually and collectively about them.

 

Stage 3   Exploration

“So we try different exercises that increase their range of writing skills and equip them to be more confident, flexible writers.”

It can all start with individual words, creating a sense almost of kinship with words. We send people on journeys of mental and emotional exploration, with a pathway that takes them to a more adventurous approach to branding and business writing.

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Stage 4   Resolution

“Then we observe how well they respond to the opportunity and we encourage them to continue along this path.”

People start telling stories that are natural not forced. The stories reflect individual personalities and they are focused on achieving a business purpose. We develop thinking on tone of voice and apply that to real situations that use the power of imagination.

 

Stage 5   Celebration

“On the final evening they demonstrate their individual voices as writers in a completely supportive environment.”

We ask everyone to write and read out a personal piece that stretches them, takes risks and points the way to a future involvement in writing. We hear stories and poems and memories. Some are funny, some poignant; all are beautifully written pieces to be proud of. So we celebrate together, a strong bond created.

 

I’m writing this above the clouds as the plane flies south. There’s always a tinge of sadness to the parting of the ways at the end of a course, but also a sense of satisfaction, because once again it worked. So my assembled paragraph, following the story structure responses, reads like this:

 

“We want writers to be able to put more of their individual humanity into their writing for work. But often they lack confidence and feel they are not given permission to write expressively at work. So we try different exercises that increase their range of writing skills and equip them to be more confident, flexible writers. Then we observe how well they respond to the opportunity and we encourage them to continue along this path. On the final evening they demonstrate their individual voices as writers in a completely supportive environment.”

 

I’ll be interested in any comments from Dark Angels of any generation (next year we celebrate our tenth anniversary). Leave your comments below, they will help us develop Dark Angels in the future.

 

 

 

 


9 Responses

  1. Andy Hayes says:

    Brilliant course and spot on summary, John. No suggestions for changing anything, just a warm glow of satisfaction.

  2. Faye says:

    Wing fanning in support. How wonderful!

  3. Paul Murphy says:

    Still drawing on the confidence gained at Ty Newydd and Aracena, doubt never goes away but it feels like the Dark Angels are still looking out for me.

  4. Neil Baker says:

    Ah, Moniack. Happy memories. And that looks like a great technique for distilling a brief.

  5. An elegant summary of what a Dark Angels course does. But of course, there’s so much more than that too, in the richness of the inner life, the thoughtfulness, the kindness that time with like minds encourages. And this Dark Angel is still writing out of the darkness.

  6. Laura Hunter says:

    Great summary John. I came away feeling inspired, excited and ready to write.

  7. Pip Trentham says:

    A fabulous week, thanks John. Loved the group, teachings, learnings and pieces we all created. Looking forward to using a few techniques this week as I continue my writing.

  8. I am now and forever shall be, a Dark Angels fan boy. America awaits. And awaits. And awaits.

  9. Sue Evans says:

    For me writing is a solitary activity so it has been a twice welcome experience to share thoughts with fellow Dark Angels instead of confronting the usual demons and, yes, gaining confidence as a writer is part of that.

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