“From my vantage point sitting on the bank, I could see the big head slowly rise through the surface and take insects as they drifted in the feeding lane. He did not move much in any direction, left or right, focused solely on the food coming in the trough created by the merge of the two currents. This could be the fish of the trip, maybe even the fish of the year for me. After watching him for a few minutes I tied on a new tippet, re-checked my knots and dressed my fly, knowing I may only get one try at him.”
We all come back from our fishing trips with stories, some exciting, some not as exciting, but never the less still interesting. The art of telling these stories while making them interesting to our listeners or readers is the difference between knowing how to tell them in a story form versus just reiterating the facts.
I would like to help you with that the process with the intent of encouraging you to write up those stories for publication on the club website, in the Flylines, and elsewhere. More on that at the end of this article.
I asked an acquaintance who teaches writing for some tips on how the lay person (you and I) can improve their skills at telling our stories. First, let me say that telling or writing a good story is just like any other part of this fly fishing sport. In order to get good at it you have to practice, practice, practice. I would encourage you to start by writing about your trips in letters or emails to friends and family. But in order to do that you need some basics on how to do it properly, just like casting.
There are two basic types of stories, news or event story and what is called a feature story. They differ in one respect – their intent. A news type provides information (who, what, when and where) while a feature does a bit more. It may also interpret events, but adds depth and color to the story, it may also instruct and more importantly, entertain. We all have heard two people tell the same story but one adds the color (flair, actions, phrasing) to make it entertaining and we normally do enjoy that one better.
To write a story properly it needs to have to have a basic structure.
The Introduction is the most important part. It needs to entice your readers to hook them in. Use drama, emotion, quotations, questions and descriptions to set up the story.
The Body of the story needs to keep any promises or answer any questions raised in the Introduction. It tells the main part of the story you set up in the introduction. Try to maintain an “atmosphere” throughout the writing. It can be light and funny, serious or scientific and informative.
While the Introduction draws the reader in, the Conclusion should be written to help the reader remember the story. A strong closing helps to finish off the story.
Using the above structure here are some points to keep in mind when writing.
- Be clear about why you are writing the story. Are you just recounting a trip or telling one entertaining part of a bigger trip?
- Write the story in the active voice. In active writing people do things. Passive sentences often have the person doing the action at the end of the sentence or things being done “by” someone.
- Keep the audience clearly in mind. Are you writing the story for friends, fellow fishermen or family? What matters to each group? Fellow fishermen like the details (what fly, kind of cast, hook set, how big was the one that got away, etc) where family may not.
- Focus on human interest. The feel and emotion you put into the story is critical. It will help hold the reader’s interest and entertain them.
- Use anecdotes and direct quotes to add color. Try not to use to many of your own words.
- If the trip had more than one person involved, use their perspective to add a more complete picture. (example: Dave was up on the bank laughing when I fell in and said, “I looked like an contortionist as I tried to keep from slipping deeper into the water”.)
- Decide on the “tense” of your story at the start and stick to it. Present tense usually works best and can make a story more entertaining. (example: “We arrived back at the truck from having taken showers to find I had locked the keys inside”)
- Avoid lengthy, complex paragraphs. If you are writing it for the Flylines it will appear in a column form, so one or two sentences equals a paragraph. If you are writing it in a letter format long paragraphs get tedious.
- Don’t rely on the computer spell-checker, check any word you might question with a dictionary.
- Story ideas come from everywhere. Take notes to keep the events fresh. Read, watch and listen to other story tellers and writers to get approaches.
- And lastly, write with style. Use an informal style and stay away from detailed explanations as it interrupts the flow or thoughts you are writing about.
With these basic tips and some practice you should be able to recall a trip or event in a way that is both informative and entertaining. Share your knowledge, your findings and your stories about fly fishing and fellow members. The quality and content of each edition is in the hands of the members.
Write up a story or article and send it in. The club’s website and newsletter, the Flylines, are publications for the club members not only to get information but also to provide a platform for sharing.
Plus, there may be other personal benefits from your writing as well. Quite often we as fly fisherpersons want to share our stories with our families and friends outside of the sport. Write up a short story when you return from your trips as a way to share them with family. After you have collected a few of your personal trip stories, and with them some photos, consider using one of the many on-line publishing sites to create a book of your fishing stories. Wouldn’t that be a great thing to have for your adult children and Grandkids? Check out these sites like Blurb http://www.blurb.com/ or LuLu http://www.lulu.com/ on how to create and publish your own collection of stories.