How do you communicate your stories?

Since the beginning of human consciousness, the desire to record stories has existed.  Early cave paintings from 15,000 BC in Lascaux, France, hieroglyphics in Egypt, Native American Petroglyphs, and oral traditions through song and dance in almost every country, have left behind footprints and myths of those who walked before us.

“After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” — Phillip Pullman

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia a
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia a”Lascaux2″ by Cro-Magnon peoples – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

As a Southern American, the ballads of local legends–such as Tom Dula (Dooley)–have lived with me, as well as though infamous only within my family.  Maybe someday I’ll share one or two of those.

Maybe not.


Recently, I found myself backstage at the NC Opera in Raleigh, NC.  Speaking with performers as they awaited their turn at hair and makeup, I discovered the same passion thriving in the hearts of those within the company as those within the souls of writers.

We are all communicating stories.

IMG_3031       IMG_2671

Lorraine Snyder, my beautiful songbird friend, was performing with the cast.  I had been observing her transformation throughout the day as she piled her hair into pin curls to give her stage wig something to grip onto.  Mozart is a favorite of hers.

“There is something magical about being a part of Mozart’s opera of Don Giovanni,” she exclaimed with passion.  “To think of his words, his music, being sung so many years after he has been gone, is amazing!” Her face lit up as she talked about Mozart and the opportunity to be on stage with the talented members of the production company.


“…opera offers such deep sensations that they will remain in a heart for a lifetime.”  — Andrea Bocelli

And the chance for me to experience all that happens behind the stage was incredible. There are many people whose faces you will not see, but whose work is integral to the performance; those timing the stage entrances, the scene changers, lighting directors, ones in charge of wigs and makeup, steamers and cleaners who work diligently on the costumes, sound directors, etc. They never take the stage, but without them, there would be no performance.

“Funny how a beautiful song could tell such a sad story.”  — Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key

My fellow blogging friend, Otto Munchow, is brilliant with his depictions through photography.  Capturing people whose struggles, joy, pain, elation, and other attributes are clearly visible on their faces and within their body language, he documents more than one moment in time.  He is communicating their stories through photography.

“A photograph shouldn’t be just a picture, it should be a philosophy.”  — Amit Kalantri

I challenge you to look at a piece of sculpture and only see stone.  Behind every chiseled curve is an essay.   Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines comes to mind as a fantastic example of story shaped from stone.

“Giambologna sabine”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons –

Quilters and crafters stitch together maps of their stories.  From Colonial American Samplers, to modern collages of baseball uniforms sewn together to depict a youth’s maturation from t-ball through college sports, we find folk art full of richly depicted stories.

Ballet, jazz, folk dance–these aren’t simply forms of dancing, but artistic forms of physical storytelling.  One of my favorite ballets, The Nutcracker, comes glaringly to mind, along with Swan Lake.  Here’s a clip of The Royal Ballet Company performing Swan Lake.  Enjoy.

Many bloggers are documenting their lives on the internet, telling their stories one vignette at a time.  Some have a theme, maybe a spouse with a debilitating disease, or a child with a learning disability, or just the day-to-day drama of trying to balance career, family, self-care, meal preparation, and the challenges of home and marriage.

We–the readers, watchers, listeners, participants–find meaning in our lives through others depictions and words.  They unite us, give us a little hope that we are not alone, validate our pain, joy, trials and triumphs.

How do you communicate your stories?

Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food.  She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.   

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  1. OOOO, so many ways to connect and tell our stories.
    Even Baking!
    I Looooooove Swan Lake.
    In Woody Alan’s movie, Interiors, one of the characters is falling apart. She says, “HOW, how does one survive without ART?”
    I love that line SOOO much!
    Great POST!!!!!!

    xxx kissss

    1. Wow! I love your comment SOOO much!! How would we survive without art? And yet, the public schools are dismantling their arts programs–so sad.
      Hugs and kisses right back at ya!!

  2. Thanks for this great post! Food for thought for all Comms people, wish I had it when I was still teaching..
    We communicate our stories constantly, first by the way we are: the way we dress, the perfume we chose tells a lot about us don’t you think? How you are standing, how you are smiling..
    Then everything around us tells us stories. So many ways to tell them, in pictures, in sounds, and and everything that talks to our senses. I love fashion, and when I see those old vintage dresses, the quality of the work, the precision, they tell me so many stories…

    1. I love this! Yes, you are so right! It is called ‘body language’ for a reason. And fashion–perfect. The mores of the day and age shows up in the way people dress. Fantastic comment, Estelea. Thank you.

    1. You are very welcome, Otto. I know we have discussed the similarity of various art forms and inspiration. But as I commented on your blog, your work is the first to spring to mind when thinking of photography as a form of storytelling. You capture more than setting or a single moment in time.

  3. Although I love stories told through words, my favorite storytelling is through photographs. The faces, expressions, clothing, setting…each picture has it’s own story. I can sit for hours going through old photo albums.
    Lovely post, Renee.

  4. How well you pull this all together and tell the story, Renee 🙂 I didn’t know you were born in Southern America, but I do always find something interesting here. It must have been fantastic to be backstage. I’m not familiar with a great deal of opera but the swell of emotion in any musical form is what captures me. And you know I like to tell my stories… a little with words, a little with photos. 🙂

    1. You have a lovely blog, enhanced with your wonderful pictures! And in southern America, we are really a sub-culture all our own. Food, music, storytelling–rich additions. And backstage at the Opera was fabulous–a few divas, handsome and talented young men eager to share their stories, and such gifted singers!! I was impressed with everyone I met .

  5. Lovely post Renee – I loved the way you brought together all those kinds of storytelling, with the pictures and quotes, to demonstrate the thread that runs through them all.

  6. Great post, Renee. The chance to be backstage during any kind of performance and seeing all the work that goes into telling a story sounds thrilling. We just connected with someone we know in South Beach who shared something very personal with us. He said “we all have our stories,” and I suppose we do. I enjoy hearing them, reading them and seeing them through art and photography too. 🙂

  7. Great post Renee. Being backstage or even onstage during a performance is a magical thing. I began life as a music major and I still miss that feeling of being swept along in an ocean of sound and emotion with 50 other musicians, all giving their very best in that moment of clarity in a performance.

    1. I didn’t know this about you, Linda. But I do think creativity and the art of music/theatre/writing all co-exists quite beautifully. And every person I met backstage added another layer to my understanding and appreciation.

  8. Hi Renee!.. here are many ways to communicate… As i read your post, I thought of the quote a picture is worth a thousand words… going further, I´d say that we can also communicate without needing to speak… I like above all, writing… Best wishes, Aquileana 😀

    1. Yes, you are so right. Body language, a sweep of the eyes, hand gestures, lips pursed or turned into a grin–all says much without a word needing to be uttered. Thanks Aquileana.

    1. And of course we can’t forget silent movies, encrypted letters, even fashion–think of those rebellious sixties and the movements to burn bras and shorten hems! I just keep thinking of different ways we get our stories across. Thanks Monica!

  9. I just read this again. You are amazing. You have the gift of realizing people’s lives, their words, their art, their stories and giving it all life anew, anew in the minds of us, your readers. I hope to see you again soon!

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