OurStory Scotland is currently holding storytelling and drama workshops: contact us if you would like to take part.
Skeletons are stories that give the bare bones of a life story – with perhaps the suggestion that skeletons kept in the closet are being given an airing.
If you present a life story in skeleton form, a skeletal story, you may note a few brief stages of your story. You outline just the skeleton of a life story with the possibility of fleshing it out in greater detail later.
People who are told a skeletal story will inevitably flesh it out, filling in missing details and providing links and explanations that may be quite at odds with the experience of the person who provided the original skeleton of their life. In a sense all life stories are skeletons, as you can never tell it all – it’s all an outline that could be fleshed out with more detail. People will always read more into your story – and read it differently.
It can be fascinating, disturbing or hilarious to hear how others flesh out our skeletal stories, and thereby reveal more about them than about ourselves. It helps us to see how others make sense of our lives from a few fragments. We can also ask ourselves why we have chosen to display these particular bare bones. Are we expecting or inviting a particular version of our life to be understood? Would we provide different skeletons for different audiences?
If you are making your own skeletal story, it works best if you list just a few particular incidents through your life - try jotting down about five. Concrete events work better than abstract ideas. Others will make assumptions about causes, motives, thoughts and feelings, which will often be wildly different from your own experience. You can later flesh it out yourself and explain the connections and emotions involved.
Try fleshing out the following skeleton, but remember you are constructing a figure that may bear little resemblance to the life as lived. If you made your own skeleton, how would others interpret it?
Sample Skeletal Story
my Mum felt my head for horns growing
my Dad found my diary
the doctor said all I needed was a good hot woman
my friend held my hand
35 years on we had our civil partnership
We first developed the idea of sketching skeletons of a life story at our storytelling workshop at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow in January 2009. This workshop explored different ways of telling our story, and was held in conjunction with the Open Museum exhibition Raiders of the Lost Art, which included OurStory Scotland materials.
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