What is Inner Storytelling?
Inner Storytelling is a technique wherein you create a story, through prose, that represents the dynamics going on inside you at the moment. This can be achieved through a feedback loop, wherein you write the story, then sense how your feelings change, then write those changes into the story. In this way, an inner story can be captured and told by you.
How is Inner Storytelling different from regular storytelling?
When we think of storytelling, often it involves the idea of coming up with the story before actually writing it – that is, thinking about what the plot, characters, and other elements of the story should be, then writing to fit into that plan. In this way, a traditional story stems from the imagination, and from planning. You, as the writer, get to decide what the story is.
By contrast, in inner storytelling, your imagination isn’t used to create the story, but to come up with creative ways to render what you can sense and feel within you. You don’t decide on a story, rather, you pay attention to the feelings that are already within you, and allow the changes within feelings to fluidly create the story for you, through the assistance of your imagination. In other words, your imagination does not lead the way. Instead, the story you come up with will be a surprise to you as you write it.
What is the purpose of Inner Storytelling?
From my experience with it, there are several benefits to inner storytelling, the first of which is self-understanding. The more you bring out what’s in you and render it fully in prose, the more you can understand about yourself, your inner world, your feelings, and how your inner dynamics really work.
The second benefit seems to me to be adventure. That’s right – you get to go on an adventure! Your adventure. In a sense, you get to see what your “inner adventure” is. This might just be my quirky and perhaps misguided way of thinking about it, but it seems like there are adventures we can go on that can help us to grow as an individual, and this method of inner storytelling can help us do that. Yes, we may not be going on an adventure physically, but we can certainly go places emotionally and mentally. Changes in the physical landscape around us aren’t the only adventures we can go on – and in fact, isn’t part of what makes a physical adventure an adventure the fact that our mind is stimulated with changing surroundings and new circumstances to adjust to, and that our feelings change too in response to changing landscapes? By translating your mental and emotional content into a story, your mind and emotions will experience similar shifts as you add to your story. In that sense – it’s an adventure!
What would the third benefit be? Well, you do get a cool story out of it – it seems like many of the lasting and enduring stories may have been written in this way, including mythology. After all, stories that are based off of raw, personal human experience would probably have lasting appeal, no? These stories can be shared with others, and perhaps you might even be able to sell them for profit, too.
The fourth benefit I can think of is that of working through feelings. Writing the story can help you to work through your feelings and come up with innovative solutions to your inner issues, that you may never have thought of otherwise. For instance. Say you feel stuck, and you come up with the metaphor of a water wheel on a mill. The man who runs the mill comes out one day and sees that it’s stuck. He tries to push it to make it move again, but it stays in the same position. He tries to let go of it, but suddenly he’s getting dragged along with it – it moves, but at his expense. He tries to go away from the wheel, but looks like a strap of his suspenders is stuck to it. He tries to cut his suspenders, but now his head gets stuck in it. What a crazy wheel! He gets so mad that he goes after the wheel with an axe, and chops it all up. As he’s standing there, breathing heavily over the scattered pieces, they are drawn to him and form body armor around him. What’s he supposed to do now? ——- This could go on like this until a solution to the mill owner’s problems were solved. In this case, the mill owner would be a representation of you trying to deal with and find solutions for the problems in your feelings. When the mill owner’s problems are solved, then so are yours – at least with respect to the problems in your feelings that you include in the story.
How does one write a story in this way?
Writing an inner story is surprisingly easy, since you include everything you catch in your awareness in it, and requires no planning or prior writing skill. That said, the process can be somewhat taxing, as it requires a sustained heightened level of awareness as you write.
If you ever feel stuck as you write, it may be because you’re relying too much on your imagination. Just dip into your awareness once again, and sense what’s there, and bring THAT into the story. This can be a common occurrence, since we can easily imagine adventures, even ones we’re not really experiencing emotionally or mentally. We might think “oh if things happen this way wouldn’t that be cool??”, but instead of putting what you think would be cool in the story, one can just put a character who is imaginative – maybe a character who comes up with or brings to life things from his or her imagination. In other words, our own attitudes and states of being can be given a way to come to life through the process of storytelling.
As a quick start guide, here is a process you can follow – once you get the hang of it, though, you may find it easier to not follow this precise pattern:
- Find a place to write your story down.
- How do you feel right now? Open your story by describing a character who feels the way you do. Where are they? What do they look like? Try to flesh out the metaphor for how you feel. For example, if you’re feeling depressed, maybe your character is waiting for the bus in the rain with no umbrella, or something. If you’re feeling worn out – maybe their clothes are worn out or tattered. If it feels like you’ve been traveling for ages, maybe write your character as out in the middle of no where – or perhaps they’re just coming home after a long trip. Whatever makes sense to you as a way of describing your current situation in your feelings – put that into the story.
- What are you trying to accomplish? Translate this into a motive for the character. If you’re trying to feel better, maybe the character is trying to reach a land where the sun is shining and the grass is green – instead they’re stuck in this wasteland. If you’re just trying to play around and have fun, and are in a good mood, maybe have your character bouncing around in their environment, or something.
- What other feelings are there? Write your feelings as new story elements. For instance, say your first character is crying, and suddenly you feel very sympathetic for them – you could include a second character who, moved by compassion, tries to help the first, and they might start up a conversation.
- Once you’ve written what you’ve noticed in your feelings, shift your awareness back to your feelings to pick up new information, and write those new feelings into the story. Your feelings don’t really ever end, so the story might never end either – so choosing a stopping point that makes sense to you may be prudent, unless you wish to continue the story, and make it more of an extended project or an epic, rather than a short story. The length, and whether when you stop it is a break or the end of the story, are both up to you.
And that’s it! Happy inner storytelling everyone : )
Note – you can find an example of this, here: https://www.theworldwithin.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=7