ANECDOTE vs STORY – What’s the Difference?

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When I first started writing I got a few rejections saying my pieces were anecdotes and not stories. After I’d dried my tears, I began to wonder what the difference was?

What is it that makes a story a story, and an anecdote something you tell your friends but don’t get published?

MEANING.

An ANECDOTE is an incident from our lives that we tell our mates down at the pub or over a cup of tea. This tale may have many of the elements of a story – setting, characters and action – but usually that’s it.

For example –

When people notice the scar running from my forehead down along my left temple beside my eye, I tell them an anecdote about how, when I was fourteen, I was searching for organisms out on the rocks at Deadman’s Beach (true!) during my school biology camp on Stradbroke Island.

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A huge wave came hurtling towards us and I braced myself by facing into the barnacle covered rocks, gripping on for dear life. The wave crashed over me and my classmates, and smashed my face into the rocks, dragging me as it fled back out to sea, grating my face against the barnacles. Adrenaline pumping, I scrambled to my feet and leapt  over the rocks, racing to shore where my poor teacher was greeted with a bloody mess like Sissy Spacek at the end of Carrie.

I was almost helicoptered back to Brisbane, but the local island doctor was used to shark bites and stitched my face back together again – sixty stitches in all. I wasn’t a pretty sight. Once I got back home my friend took some photos and we entered me in a Dolly Magazine Covergirl Competition. We thought we were pretty funny. Needless to say, I didn’t win 🙂

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As you can see, this anecdote has plenty of action and drama and even a happy ending. But it’s not a story. WHY?

Because it only tells what happened. An anecdote doesn’t reflect on the events and dig deeper to find meaning.

STORIES on the other hand are how humans make sense of the world and what happens to us. They delve deep into the emotional heart of what that incident meant to us and how we were changed as a result. A story creates MEANING from the meaningless.

For example –

What if I told you this accident happened only a couple of months after the death of my young father? What if I told you that when the wave hit something inside me hoped that it would tear me away and take me to where my father was. What if I wrote about how, as the doctor stitched my face back together again, he sang the Death March. What if I wrote about how my best friend tenderly helped me wash the blood out of my hair that night as I sat in a cold bath. What if I told you that I lay awake for hours in my bunk, trying to convince myself that my father’s death had been a bad dream I’d had while knocked out, that he would be waiting for me on the other side of the ferry?

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Then we’d have a story.  A story I haven’t written yet, but just might.

“Dig deeper,” I tell the memoirists I edit and teach. Don’t be afraid. Go deeper and find the true heart of your story. Turn that anecdote into something that touches people.

Have you got an anecdote or two you could dig deeper into to create meaning? Search hard enough and everything that happens has another layer of story reflecting human experience.

Want to learn more? Come along to my next retreat in the mountains with a special focus on memoir writing. Great for beginners too, and anyone needing to reboot their writing mojo!

That’s what we writers do, we write to make sense of the world.

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Let me know how you go!

Lots of love

Edwina

Reviews for Relax and Write NANOWRIMO

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Reviews for Relax and Write NANOWRIMO at Burleigh Heads just in!
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Bianca’s Review of Relax and Write Retreat Burleigh, November 2019
Do you have a passion for writing? …Do you need to do more of it?
Do you enjoy relaxing? …Need to do a bit more of that too?
Well, what are you waiting for!!?? A RELAX AND WRITE Retreat exists and it is waiting for YOU!
Take my word for it (actually, I’m a writer so a few words to be precise), you won’t regret it.
Join the fabulous Edwina Shaw and a group of the loveliest, most down to earth women you will ever meet, and do exactly that: relax and write. As a writer in my twenties, I would also encourage other writers, young and young at heart, to come along to these affordable and worthwhile weekend escapes. After attending this superb retreat just a few weeks ago in Burleigh Heads, I can honestly say I feel transformed, as a writer and as a human being.
Ed puts her absolute heart and soul into these retreats and, as a published author and yoga teacher, she definitely knows her stuff! You will learn practical and relevant writing techniques, tips and tricks in her generous workshops as well as benefit from the tranquil surroundings and grounding relaxation and yoga practice (and some dancing and massages thrown in for fun!) The retreats are all-inclusive so you just need to arrive…everything is taken care of. And you will certainly be taken care of too!
Thank you Ed! xx
Bianca Millroy is has recently completed her Masters in Creative Writing, with a full historical magic realist novel ready to find a good home. Find out more about her and her wonderful writing at Bianca Millroy

 

Gay Liddington

RETREAT REVIEW by Gay Middlington

Inspired by the idea of a women’s, Relax and Write Retreat, I attended the November 2019 Burleigh Heads gathering led by Edwina Shaw. The lure of writing, yoga, dancing and the optional extra massage, provided the opportunity to immerse myself in a creative, nurturing environment.

Like-minded women engaged in writing workshops, feedback groups and an individual session with Edwina, all of which I found valuable. And, while a program was offered, participants were also given the option of free-flowing. The fully-catered retreat environment was comfortable and stress-free.

Edwina and her team create an atmosphere that encourages, motivates and inspires. I was reluctant to extract myself from the retreat bubble but resolved to become a ‘repeat retreater’.

Gay Liddington writes feature articles for the Hinterland Times and is busily at work on her forthcoming memoir.

It was a great pleasure having both these fabulous women on retreat. I feel so lucky that every retreat attracts just the right people who all support each other, connect and make firm writing friendships.

Don’t be shy! You deserve a weekend away from the busyness of ordinary life to focus on your writing too. Our next retreat is in Highfields among the trees and hills north of Toowoomba March 27 – 29. With other retreats planned for June and December.

Come along and rediscover your love of writing and life!

See all the info about upcoming retreats HERE.

Or just drop me a line and I’ll fill you in and help you pick which one would suit you best.

Thanks again to all the wonderful women who made this retreat so special. And particularly to Gay and Bianca for taking the time to write such lovely reviews.

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Lots of love

Edwina xx