The Complete Guide to Creating Quality Photostories

I think my blog is best known for its photostories, and I guess having won Doll Mag’s “Best Posts From a Doll’s Perspective” award in 2015, and “Best Photo Stories” in the 2016 Paisley Awards proves it. So I’m compiling my (almost) five years of knowledge on writing photostories to help you make yours the best they can be.

A photostory is a short story where the writing is broken up by pictures of your dolls. Mine are usually between 1000-2000 words, but of course yours don’t have to be nearly that long. There’s no set length for a photostory. It can be as long or as short as you need to get through the plot.

There are also photostory series, which take a lot more effort, time, and planning than your basic photostory. Series have the plot spread out through multiple installments. My longest photostory series was The BFF Wars, which had thirteen segments, plus two half parts.

When planning a photostory, the first thing I do is pick which doll will be the main character. Who I choose is influenced by several different factors, such as the type of story I want to tell, which doll hasn’t been featured lately, the doll’s personality, etc.

For example, let’s pretend that I want to do a photostory set at the beach. Whoever stars in the story will determine where it goes from there. If I picked Caroline, who has a motherly, compassionate personality, the story might involve her forcing sunscreen on her sisters or helping them out of stupid situations they got themselves in. With inquisitive Ellie as the main character, the focus would be on her discovering a new species of fish while studying tide pools. Or if it was told from fantasy-loving Parker’s point of view, it would be about her search for mermaids and sea monsters.

Which leads me to my next tip: make sure your dolls have well-developed personalities. When each doll has set hobbies and traits, it makes it easier to write from their perspective and have them interact with other characters. You wouldn’t want to read a book where the MC is flat and boring, so make sure your photostories aren’t like that.

As someone who’s loved writing since third grade, I know just how hard it can be to come up with exciting, unique characters. And whenever I get a new doll, I struggle with making her have her own personality instead of being a copy. To help you flesh out who your dolls are, find a simple questionnaire. Google “character questionnaire,” find one that you like, and fill out the information for your doll.

Now that you’ve picked a doll and given her an engaging personality, the next step is to create a plot.

The way I come up with plots is by picking something that the MC is passionate about. For example, Parker is interested in the paranormal, so I made two photostories from her point of view about a haunted house and an all-knowing magic eight ball. Then I come up with a dilemma for her to face, like when Ellie was worried about being on the naughty list in my 2017 Christmas special. From there, the rest of the story is usually about the MC trying to solve the problem.

In need of inspiration? Read through my photostories by clicking here. Maybe something will spark your creativity!

Now you have two options: write out your story or take the pictures for it. There’s no right next step, it’s really just a matter of preference. Personally, I take the pictures first, because I usually continue to develop the plot while photographing. And I find it easier to write when I already have my pictures to go off of.

But you should do what you want! This is a creative process and I don’t want to tell you exactly what to do. In fact, this whole guide is just suggestions, and if something doesn’t work for you, then go ahead and ignore it.

It doesn’t matter if you decide to write or photograph first; the story part of a photostory is inevitable. Some of you might love writing, and you won’t need any advice on it. But there are others who want to make photostories, but are hesitant because writing isn’t a strength of theirs.

I can’t teach you how to write, but I can offer a few simple tips.

Make sure you use proper grammar! Please read over your story a few times before you publish it to catch those grammar mistakes. Sometimes previewing it can help you spot them, because having your writing in a different font can make them stand out. Or get a friend/parent/guardian to look over it for you.

– Nothing is more confusing than switching perspectives, so pick a point of view and stick to it. I almost always write my photostories in first person (I/my), but you can also do third (she/her) or second (you/your). If you’re doing first person POV, you could try changing who’s telling it (i.e. going from Molly being “I” to Emily), but if you do that, make sure it’s obvious when the shift happens. Try adding a heading at the start of the paragraph with the new character’s name.

– Look up synonyms on Thesaurus. Use varied sentence lengths. Describe the setting and characters, even though the pictures will convey that, too. Keep in mind that your photos shouldn’t altogether replace parts of your writing, they’re just there to enhance the story. Do whatever you can to keep your writing interesting.

You might not be the best writer ever, but don’t let any fear or doubt keep you from sharing your photostory. Don’t compare yourself to others, and if you’re proud of what you’ve created, then it’s good enough.

If you’re a doll blogger, then you probably have some experience with photographing your dolls. Photo shoots just come with the territory. But taking pictures for a photostory is slightly different, as it focuses less on beauty and more on moving your story along. Try taking more dynamic photos that give the idea of motion. And if it fits your story, use lots of props to fill in the frame.

If you wrote the story first, you can pick sentences to base your photos on. It gives you a guide for what you need to photograph.

One problem I run into when making paranormal/fantasy photostories is not being able to show magic in my pictures. You know, like being able to shoot fire out of your hands, or having a magical item give off a mysterious glow. You can experiment with light all you want, but I’ve found that the most practical way around this is just editing the pictures afterwards.

Say you’re trying to edit a fairy into one of your photographs. Your best bet is to find free clip art with a transparent background, save it to your computer, then upload the clip art and your photo into Canva. If anyone attempts that and can’t figure out how to make it work, I’d be happy to share a more thorough walk-through.

Here’s a tip: if you’re photographing outside, gather your dolls and props and put them in a tote bag or sturdy cardboard box. Whenever you move locations, just stick all your stuff inside so you don’t have to make lots of trips back and forth with your arms full of dolls.

Once you’ve got all your writing and photographs formatted the way you want, preview the post and check for errors. If everything looks good, then congratulations, it’s time to publish your photostory and share your creative efforts with the world!

Photostories can be extremely time-consuming, but they’re rewarding, a favorite of readers, and so worth it.

If you follow this guide and post a photostory, feel free to drop a link to it so I can check out your hard work!

xo
Loren

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25 Things All American Girl Fans can Relate to

Hey, guys!

I put together a list of things that I run into a lot as an American Girl lover. Hopefully some other fans can relate, too!

By the way, it’s 100% OK to not be able to relate to most (or any) of the things on this list. It’s doesn’t make you a fake fan or anything like that. These are just pulled from my own experiences, and it’s fine if we appreciate dolls in different ways.

Enjoy! :)


1) “What are you going to spend your birthday/Christmas money on?” . . . Dolls.

2) Hearing your grandparents talk about your dolls is actually painful. How many different versions of “American dolls” are there?

3) Constantly losing their hairbrush. I’ve had about four doll brushes in my life and I only know where one is.

4) Seeing a really cool location for a photoshoot in public, but being too embarrassed to bring your doll there.

6) Your camera dying/the weather changing as soon as you’ve finished prepping for a shoot.

7) You’re always broke because you spend your money on doll clothes/accessories as soon as you have enough.

8) Being nervous about bringing new friends to your house because they’ll see your doll collection.

9) Getting an amazing idea for a new post . . . at 1 a.m.

11) Hanging onto every weird knickknack because you might use it for a photostory some day. Do I really need this tiny rattle? No. Am I going to keep it anyway? Absolutely.

12) “I think I know more about American Girl dolls than you do, genius,” is your favorite vine. (My favorites are actually those ones about the guy who can’t find his berries, but that’s beside the point.)

13) You have plans for tons of custom dolls that you’ll never makes.

14) You might have cried a little bit when Doll Diaries and Innerstar U shut down (R.I.P.).

16) You’ve spent countless hours scrolling through AGIG, drooling over all the gorgeous photographs.

17) You’ve been searching eBay for years, trying to track down that GOTY that you regret not buying.

18) Freaking out about your dolls getting silver eye whenever they get slightly wet.

19) Playing games and taking quizzes on the American Girl website was a staple part of your childhood (the pet ones were the best).

21) No matter how bad the GOTY movies are, you’re still going to watch them.

22) You have a box filled with old American Girl magazines and catalogs somewhere.

23) The first time you went to an American Girl store was a dream come true.

24) You’ll never forget how excited you were when you got your first American Girl doll.

25) No matter how old you get, your dolls will always have a special place in your heart.


How many can you relate to? Can you think of anything else that should’ve been on this list? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!

xo

Loren

Easter AG Haul

Hey, guys!

At the end of my last post, I mentioned that I was getting a new doll for Easter from one of my grandparents. I probably should have specified that it wasn’t a joke, since Easter was also April Fool’s Day. Anyway, we went to grandparents #2’s house for dinner, and I received my fifteenth American Girl doll!

By the way, I’m not trying to brag. I just like reading hauls and thought you guys might be interested.

The doll in question is a used Pleasant Company Samantha Parkington. My grandma found the doll, a bed, and a bag of clothes/accessories at a church sale for $25. Thank you, Grammy! <3

For such an old doll, her hair is in great condition. I was surprised by how curly it is.

I think she’s a pre-Mattel doll, because she has soft eyelashes, really long neck strings, no body tag, and not a lot of color in her face. But since I don’t have any other Samantha dolls to compare her to, I can’t be sure.

She didn’t have her entire meet outfit — just the dress and underwear.

Here’s the Pleasant Company stamp on her neck.

There’s a yellow stain on her dress, and the heart locket has fallen off the brooch.

I don’t particularly like the Pleasant Company dolls because they don’t have much color in their faces. So I used a washable marker to give her lips some color, and I think she looks much better.

 

The bed that came with her is Samantha’s Brass Bed, I believe. The previous owner added wooden boards to the bottom. :/

It did come with the pillow and mattress, which I think are adorable. I’ve never bought a doll bed from American Girl before, so this is exciting for me. All my dolls’ beds are either made out of the boxes, or something my dad built.

The bed came with a handmade floral quilt. It’s too long for the bed, but it works if you tuck the end under.

In the bag of clothes was Samantha’s Plaid Cape and Gaiters, and her Elegant Hat and Muff. It’s probably my favorite item that I got. I just really love capes.

Next is the Inline Gear outfit (missing one knee pad). I recently saw a picture of the t-shirt on AGIG and thought it was adorable, so I’m really happy to have it.

Plus, how cool are those rollerblades?

The crutches and cast from the Après-Ski Gear/Cast and Crutches Set were also in there.

“Tough break!” . . . That’s just cruel.

This thermos with the American Girl of Today logo is from the same set.

There were also some pieces from the Après-Ski Wear/Ski Lodge Outfit, like this oversized sweater that buttons at the neck.

These blue leggings are from that outfit, too. One of the socks came in the bag, but I think I left it at my grandma’s house.

Samantha was wearing Pleasant Company Molly’s glasses, for some reason. My Molly’s glasses are broken, so I’m happy to have another pair.

The Bitty Bear’s Birthday book from the Happy Birthday Set. I’m probably going to stick this on my dolls’ bookshelf and never touch it again.

I don’t think this lacy pair of underwear is from American Girl, but at this point, I’m too tired of searching American Girl Wikia to be sure.

These overalls are definitely not AG, because they’re much too big. It took some pinching to make it sit right on Samantha.

This wedding dress is probably Barbie, though I’m not sure. It’s got some stains on it, but once I wash it, it’ll probably fit my Ever After High dolls.

Finally, I now have two coat hangers and an extra shoe from Molly’s meet outfit.

There were also a bunch of baby clothes in the bag, but those are going to one of my cousins, because they might fit some of her dolls. I got all the good stuff, though. :)

I might end up sending Samantha to the Doll Hospital for a new head, just because I’m not a fan of how the older dolls look. I’m not sure yet, though, because replacing her head would make her value go down, as she wouldn’t be Pleasant Company anymore.

If anyone could help me identify where some of these clothes are from, that would be much appreciated.

What’s your favorite item from the haul? Mine are the cape and rollerblading outfits.

xo

Loren

If BeForever Characters Were Girls Today

if-1

Hello, I hope you’re having a good day! :)

I was wondering what the BeForever characters would be like if they were teens in 2018, so I created collages for all of them based on their hobbies. All of the currently available BeForever dolls are on here, except for Nanea Mitchell. I haven’t read her books and the personality section on her American Girl Wiki page is blank, so I thought it would be best to leave her off.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy looking at these! They took several days to create, but I think it was worth it.

Julie Albright

– Activist (especially passionate about environmentalism and feminism).

– Has a zodiac Instagram account.

– The star of her school’s basketball team.

– Super positive and always trying to cheer her friends up.

– Loves to thrift shop because it’s recycling and good for the earth.

– Sells her crafts on Etsy.

Rebecca Rubin

– Musical theatre nerd!! She’s in all her school’s performances and probably loves Hamilton.

– She’s very proud of being Jewish.

– Runs a small business, selling things she’s crocheted or bought at yard sales and revamped.

– Owns several pet birds

– Does really extravagant makeup that looks great on her.

– Cher from Clueless is her role model.

Kit Kittredge

– Let’s be real, she would totally be a blogger. She would probably post interviews and political opinions.

– Restless and wants to explore.

– Always trying to help out and make the world a better place.

– Absolutely obsessed with Newsies the musical.

– Plays on her school’s softball team.

– Photojournalist and part of the yearbook committee.

Addy Walker

– On her school’s swim team.

– Very loyal to her family and is excited to start her own.

– Questions the status quo and social norms.

– Into activism, especially animal rights and racial equality.

– Wants to be a teacher so she can help children reach their full potential.

Melody Ellison

– Christian, and she shares her faith through her music.

– Listens to music 24/7. She likes lots of different genres.

– Plays in her school’s marching band.

– Attends lots of peaceful protests.

– Helps at her grandfather’s flower shop.

Felicity Merriman

– Doesn’t respect authority very much and gets in trouble because of it.

– Works at a stable in exchange for free riding lessons.

– Hypes up every girl she meets.

– Volunteers at an animal shelter.

– Wants to join the army.

Kaya’aton’my (She Who Arranges Rocks)

– Works as a counselor at a summer camp.

– She’s proud to be Native American and goes to powwows with her family.

– Plant mom!! Her room is filled with succulents and potted flowers.

– Enjoys camping and getting in touch with nature.

– Writes short stories inspired by Nez Perce lore.

Josefina Montoya

– Loves traveling and experiencing other cultures.

– Keeps a nature/art journal.

– Always tries to be optimistic and help others look on the bright side, too.

– Plays piano and writes her own songs.

– Likes growing plants, especially ones with healing properties and mini cacti.

Samantha Parkington

– She takes gymnastic lessons because she tumbled in the yard and swung on trees so much as a kid.

– Huge feminist and has no problem calling people out on their sexism.

– Likes to paint, especially flowers and landscapes.

– Reads fantasy books to escape from her life.

– On her school’s debate team.

Maryellen Larkin

– Part of the Girl Scouts.

– Plays roller derby.

– Has an almost childish style that she pulls off well.

– Has a small science lab in her garage.

– Reads and draws comics.


Which character are you most similar to? I’m a mix of Samantha, Kaya, and Melody, with a bit of Rebecca thrown in (I love theatre and Cher Horowitz).

Before I go, here’s an update on the new doll situation: she’s now supposed to arrive sometime tonight or on Saturday. So you guys will have to wait a little longer to find out who she is. Sorry. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

xo

Loren

Behind the Scenes: The BFF Tag

behind the scene-1

Hey, guys!

I love reading behind the scenes posts, because it’s fascinating to see how other bloggers put together their content. How long it takes to write/photograph, the order they do things in, bits of their process that are unique, etc. are all really interesting to me. So I thought I’d share how I made one of my recent posts, The BFF Tag With Saige & Isabelle.

First of all, the idea itself came from those best friend Q&As you see on YouTube. I searched “BFF tag questions” and ended up on YouTube Society, which is where I got all the questions from. I copied and pasted them into WordPress and wrote my story around them. I usually create my photostories the other way — pictures, then writing — but I did it differently that time for some reason.

Next, I set up the scene in the kitchen, where there’s great natural lighting. I wanted the setting to look like the rooms you see on Pinterest: clean and modern, lots of lights and plants.

The background is just a poster board with Christmas lights taped on it. I use it as the backdrop in lots of posts, because it’s easy to change up the way it looks by draping fabric across it, putting up a poster or decorations, etc.

I see photos of cute polaroids strings all over the internet, so of course I had to include some. :) I posted a DIY for them here.

I got this mini chalkboard for Christmas one year (I think it’s from Michaels). The other side is a dry erase board. I thought the plants were a cute touch; the one on the right is my mum’s orchid, and the one in the back is mine (it’s name is Barakat, learn more about it here).

For the first picture in the photostory, I wanted my dolls’ camera in the frame. But the only tripod I have is ridiculously short (and broken . . . I stepped on it once after my first AGSM endeavor). So I stacked some Tupperware containers and balanced the tripod on top of them so it was the right height.

I balanced my camera on the edge of a chair so I wouldn’t have to put it down while setting up my next shot. Also, I put a pillow in front of the chair so that if the camera fell, it wouldn’t break.

What they’re wearing:

Saige: Molly McIntire’s meet outfit sweater, shorts from the retired AG Skateboard Set, socks from Our Generation, and earrings from the AG Fresh and Fun Earring Set.

Isabelle: sweater and leggings from the retired Frosty Fair Isle Set.

 

I hope you guys enjoyed getting a quick peek behind the curtain and learning about my blogging process! Would you like to see more (hopefully longer) behind the scenes posts in the future?

xo

Loren

What Does My Brother Know About American Girl?

(Inspired by Sam’s post)

Hey, guys!

My older brother, C, agreed to make a post with me. I came up with a list of AG-inspired questions to ask him, with his answers written below. Hopefully you’ll find this as entertaining as I did. :)


What’s my blog called, and how long have I had it?

C: Which one?

Me: The doll one.

C: Happy House of AG, obviously. And I’m going to say you’ve had it since 2014.

Me: I . . . actually don’t know how long I’ve had it. Let me look it up.

C: How am I supposed to answer these if you don’t even know?

Me: Oh, dang, you are right.

C: *dab*

How did I first learn about AG?

C: I almost want to say from toy catalogs. Or internet advertisements? A person? I don’t know. Oh, it was from our uncle!

Me: Yeah, he bought me the Kaya series.

How many dolls do I have?

C: Is it higher than fourteen?

Me: Let me count. Um, no.

C: Is it lower than twelve?

Me: No.

C: Then it’s either twelve, thirteen, or fourteen. Thirteen, that’s my answer.

Me: Good job.

Who was my first American Girl doll?

C: Tracy.

Me: You actually knew that one!

C: Duh, of course I know your first doll. It’s been staring at me for the past four years.

Me: More than four years, actually. I got her in 2012.

C: Fine, almost six years.

Who is my newest doll?

C: Is it Nevaeh?

Me: No!

C: Is it MJ?

Me: No.

C: Oh, wait! S. Is it Savannah?

Me: *shakes head*

C: Wait. Parker! It’s Parker.

What’s the one AG doll that I’ve always wanted?

C: Felicity.

Which internet friend did I meet this year?

C: She was blonde. Right?

Me: No. But she has the same name as one of my friends.

C: Isabelle?

Izzy & Charlotte Anne // Me & Nevaeh

Me: Yeah. Izzy.

How many times have I been to the American Girl store?

C: Somewhere between zero and infinity.

Me: Very specific.

C: About ten?

Me: I don’t actually know.

Which of my friends like American Girl?

C: Isabelle, and . . . *deep look of concentration* Megan?

Me: She used to have one.

C: So it kind of counts.

My mom: Kelsie and Kelly.

C: Does Bethany like them?

Me: No, but her sisters have begged me to give them my dolls.

What’s my most popular photostory series?

C: Well, there are only like three photostories that you’ve actually finished. Road to Pamel?

Me: No.

C: Is it the spy one?

Me: Nah, that was more like a mini series.

C: What is it?

Me: The BFF Wars.

Before it was American Girl, what was the company called?

C: Pleasant Company?

Me: You’re a cheater.

Who is the current GOTY?

C: She’s Brazilian, isn’t she?

Me: That’s not even American.

C: Something Clark.

Me: That’s last year’s. The Brazilian one.

C: Is she African American?

Me: Yes. But you don’t know anything else, do you?

C: No.

Me: *brings up a picture* Her name is Gabriela McBride.

Which GOTY do I look like the most?

Image result for retired american girl dolls

C: *points at Marisol* That one looks homeless.

Me: It was 2000’s fashion.

Image result for grace thomas american girl doll

It’s true, I looked just like her (except for the freckles) when I had side bangs.

C: *points at Grace* You look like that one.

Me: Do you know what her name is?

C: No.

Me: Grace Thomas. My MJ.

C: Oh, the one who lives in France.

Which BeForever doll is your favorite?

C: Will I have to give a reason?

Me: Mmhmm.

C: Kit, because . . . she’ll die the earliest.

Me: No, she won’t.

C: Yeah, lots of people died from starvation during the Great Depression.

Did you know that AG made a boy doll?

C: . . . Yes.

Me: What’s his name?

C: Ken.

Me: What? No, that’s wrong.

C: Oh, sorry, that was from Our Generation. Is it Steven?

Me: No!

C: Dan? Greg? Colin? What do you want from me?

Me: It’s Logan. He plays the drums. *shows him a picture*

C: Ugh, that’s hideous. Just like the rest of them.

Me: *eye roll*


He actually got most of them right, which is pretty surprising! I’ve got to say, I’m kind of proud of him. Maybe.

When I first asked him to help me with this, he was rather uncooperative. He said he would answer selectively. But by the end, he was getting really into it.

Are there more doll-related questions you’d like my brother to answer? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll get C to make another appearance on my blog sometime.

xo

Loren