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!