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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American Girl Doll Tips and Tricks

Buzz About AG

Hi! Today I’ve put together a post on how to keep your dolls looking their best, outfit ideas, photography tips, and more. Here, you do the math. Good outfit+awesome hairstyle+’healthy’ doll= great photoshoot= amazing blog!

OUTFIT IDEAS


MIX AND MATCH. Guys, you can make so many outfits with different pieces. I try to make my dolls look trendy and cute. Here are 3 outfits- all with the same shorts.

DSC04816.JPGThis one is bright and makes me think of summer. :) DSC04817.JPGLazy day outfit! DSC04818.JPGSame as before, but cuter- with a vest and black sandals. Also, what I do is pick out the base for the clothes first, like a simple tee and pants, and then add shoes and accessories. (sample outfit idea: short sleeve t-shirt, black leggings, brown boots, high ponytail, wristwatch)

Does your blog have a certain theme? Mine does! It’s bee- themed, so that’s why my header picture is…

View original post 1,287 more words

Create Your Own WordPress Blog

Hello!

I’ve put together a post about how to start your own WordPress blog. I thought it would be helpful for anyone who wants to create a blog, but doesn’t know where to begin. :)

First, make sure your parents are OK with you starting your own blog! Talk to them about what you can and cannot say online. Some things you can’t say might be your full name, birthday, location, etc. As soon as you get the go ahead from your parents, you can create your own blog!

Create Your Own WordPress Blog

Step One — Create Your Blog

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First, go to WordPress.com. Click on the big blue button that says “Create Website.”

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WordPress will then take you to a screen where it’ll ask you to choose a theme. Don’t spend too much time selecting a theme, as this isn’t the full spread. Besides, you can always change your theme later.

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Once you pick a theme, it’ll take you to another screen. This one will ask you to choose a domain — what you type in the search bar when you’re going to a website. Type in your blog’s name, scroll through the options that are brought up, and choose a free one.

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Next, you’ll be asked to pick a plan: Free, Premium, or Business. Choose Free, which is all the way on the left. It’s what I use for Happy House of AG. ;)

Somewhere along the way, you’ll need to create an account. It’s pretty straightforward, so I didn’t bother to take a screen capture.

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Then, after a bit of loading, your blog will appear!

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To write your first post, click the little button of a pencil located on the top right of the screen.

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Once the new screen loads, you can begin composing your first post. Try to make a good impression, but don’t drag it out. This is what I wrote in the post above:

Hello, World!

My name is ______, and this is my blog! My hobbies include ______, ______, and ______. Check back for more fun posts!

Thanks for stopping by!

Insert name here

You’re welcome to use the text above as a base for your first post. You can tweak it all you’d like.

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Over on the left side of the screen is a white menu. This is where you can add things like categories, tags, featured images, and more.

When you’ve finished your first post (make sure to proofread it for typos!), publish it by pressing the blue button helpfully labeled “Publish.” Or you can save it, and post it at a later time.

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In order to view your drafts (what your post is before you publish it), click the “Drafts” button at the very top of the white menu. It will take you to this screen. You can access and edit all of your unpublished posts from this area.

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If you want to add a page to your blog, just click on the “Pages” button on the white menu.

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Creating a page is exactly the same as writing a post. Type whatever you want to say and publish or save it.

Step Two — Customize Your Blog

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Now that you’ve learned how to write a post, let’s move on to Step Two . . . customizing your blog! Click the little “Customize” button on the white menu of your Dashboard.

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It will take you to the customization screen, where you can add widgets, change the background color, upload a header image, and more.

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Let’s start with changing your blog’s name and giving it a tagline. Currently, the name being displayed is whatever the URL is — in my case, exampleblog241. “exampleblog124” is a terrible name for a blog, and this is how you can change it!

Click on the “Site Title, Tagline, and Logo” button, which is found in the left menu.

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Type in your blog’s official name in the “Site Title” slot. I choose to call my example blog simply My Blog. (You should try to come up with a much more original name than that. ;) ) Write the tagline in the second slot: a little more information about your blog. I wrote A blog about a teen girl and her life.

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Next, give your blog a colorful background! You can either upload an image (a pattern is best) or choose a solid color. Select “Colors & Backgrounds” on the left menu. There are squares of colors displayed on this menu, which, according to WordPress, “will work well with the other colors on your palette.” Beneath these squares is the sentence You can also pick your own color. Click on the words “pick your own color” and follow the instructions.

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Want to change your blog’s font? Click on the “Fonts” option, which, like everything else so far, is on the left menu. Scroll through the fonts available for headings and the main font and choose the ones you like best.

Once you’re happy with the way your blog looks, click the “Save & Publish” button on the top left of the screen.

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Go to your blog and see that your edits have come to life!

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If you want to change your theme, scroll over the “My Sites” button on the top left of the black menu on your blog. Select the “Themes” button.

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They have TONS of themes available. Many of them are free, but some you have to pay for. Look through the themes until you find one you like.

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Voila! New theme.

Have any questions about starting a blog? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll reply to them as best as I can.

-Loren

#1 Blogging Goal: Completed!

I have been a terrible blogger this month, I know. And I’m very sorry for the lack of posting! I have lots of ideas for posts, but I haven’t been able to find the time to blog lately.

Anyway, this post is about a long-time blogging goal of mine that was finally completed. Ever since my blog started to get popular, it was my wish to inspire someone to start their own blog. I can now say that I have completed this goal!

Lily from Uniquely Myself helped me complete that goal. She commented on my blog this morning, telling me that she had been inspired by my blog to start her own. I’m not going to lie — I almost died when I read that! She’s a new blogger, but her posts are quite good, so please check out her blog!

Knowing that my own hard work has inspired someone to take up blogging makes me really, really happy. It makes me feel like I’ve impacted people in a good way. Lily: thanks for helping me reach that goal. :)

Again, please check out Lily’s blog by clicking this link: Uniquely Myself.

What are some of your blogging goals?

-Loren

The Art of Blogging: What I’ve Learned in Two Years

art of blogging

I’ve been asked numerous times by bloggers, new and old, how they can improve their blog and draw in more readers. I decided to share some of the tricks I’ve learned in my (almost) two years of blogging.

Photography

Photos are an important part of your blog — perhaps even the most important part. I don’t know about you, but a blog that has bad quality photos or hardly any photos at all isn’t going to attract my attention. I want to see your dolls, see the craft that I’m going to be making.

If you’re serious about blogging, get a nice camera. iPad/iPhone photography just isn’t that impressive (But if that’s all you have to take photos with, go ask Madison or Jaclynn for some tips on iPhone photography — they’re both fairly amazing with it).

Don’t expect to pick up a camera and instantly get terrific photos. Photography is a skill that can only be improved by practice. So take pictures often, and experiment with lighting and settings.

ByeLanie

Above is one of the first photos I ever posted on my blog. It’s blurry, the lighting is bad, and it’s not focused on the dolls as much as it could be.

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This is one of the photos I posted on my blog recently. It’s sharp, and the lighting is even. But it’s taken me a long time to progress from photo #1 to photo #2.

If you’re going to take photos inside, try to make sure you take them near a window. Somewhere where there is natural light. Also, I’ve found that it’s best to take photos without flash. Although, if it’s dark or you can’t manage to get a sharp image, it’s OK to use flash. Or you could just try again at a different time of day.

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Try to avoid taking pictures of you doll in harsh sunlight. If you do, it’ll end up looking something like this picture of Isabelle.

Grammar

I cannot tell you how much bad grammar annoys me. Bad grammar will drive me as far as to unfollow the culprit’s blog.

Grammar 101

original image via

I made a post about grammar awhile back, and I highly recommend that you check it out HERE.

Don’t know what to post?

Quality over quantity is something you should remember when you don’t know what to post. Brainstorm ideas instead of typing up a quick “I don’t know what to post — please comment with suggestions!” post.

Here are some post ideas:

  • Do a review. Surely there is something in your collection that you haven’t reviewed already.
  • Do a game. Caption That Picture, Name That Doll, Who Wore it Best — readers love games.
  • Create an award. New bloggers love getting awards and answering the questions.
  • Link to several recent posts you enjoyed reading, like Picks of the Week on Doll Diaries.
  • Do a photography challenge. We doll bloggers love showing off our photography skills. There doesn’t even have to be prizes.
  • Do a shout-out!
  • Take inspiration from your own life. Going to the park? Bring a doll and take some pictures.

About apology posts

We’ve all read them, and probably written some of our own: the post where you say sorry again and again and give us a bunch of reasons as to why you haven’t been posting. I didn’t know what to post, I was busy with school, I was out of town, etc.

Wouldn’t you rather look at some new (or even old!) pictures instead of reading that apology? I know I would. Instead of dedicating a whole post to your drawn out, heartfelt apology, just include a quick “sorry I haven’t been posting” at the beginning of post.

There are times, of course, when an apology to your readers is necessary. If you’ve been gone for a month without an explanation, an apology may be in order.

How do I get people to notice my blog?

Honestly, it just takes time.

It took me months and months to really get noticed. I know you don’t want to wait as long as I did, so I put together a list of a few tried and true ways to speed up the process.

  • Comment on other blogs. Leave a link to your blog after your signature, or ask nicely for the blogger to take a look at your blog. But make sure you say something nice about their post before making a request. It can be a bit annoying for someone to comment on a post you worked hard on with a simple, “Can you please check out my blog, leave a comment, and follow?” So make sure you ask them politely. 
  • Send in pictures for the Sunday Showcase (on Doll Diaries) or From a Friend Friday (on American Girl Fan). They let you link to your blog, and I often discover new blogs through things like the Sunday Showcase.
  • Make friends with other bloggers. This may be one of the most effective ways to get people to notice your blog. Find bloggers with common interests and talk to them in the comments. Friends (even online ones) are willing to do favors for each other, like giving you a shout-out, doing a guest post, or a collab.
  • Trade blog buttons.

Social media

At the moment, the only social media site I have an account on is Pinterest (my account), but you can really reach new readers by using social media. Since I started my Pinterest account awhile back, I’ve already gotten more then 350 refers from it!

If you already have a Pinterest account, I suggest that you make a board for your blog. Pin images from your posts with relevant hashtags. Like, if you’re pinning photos of your American Girl dolls, include hashtags like #dolls, #AmericanGirl, #AG — stuff like that.

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That’s all I have for now! I hope that my experience with blogging will help you grow your own blog.

Do you have any blogging tips that you’d like to share?

 –Loren

Happy (Late) New Year!

2016

via

Happy New Year!

This is a bit late, yes, but I was so busy posting pictures of my new Lea Clark doll that I didn’t have time to fit anything else into my blogging schedule.

But . . . I wanted to share some blog stats to celebrate how much Happy House of AG grew in 2015!

Views:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 76,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

Refers:

Top referring sites:

WordPress.com Reader

blogger.com

dolldiaries.com

pinterest.com

mail.google.com

Top Commenters:

Megan (306)

Rebekah (127)

Hayley (102)

Mya (102)

Ms. AGDoll (100)

Thanks, girls! You’re all so sweet and encouraging. :)

International Views:

I got views from the US, Canada, Australia, UK, Italy, Germany, Cost Rica, France, Brazil, India, Hungary, Ireland, and many, many more countries.

Most Popular Post:

Leaked — GOTY 2016 Lea Clark Outfits. It got 1,822 views.

Weirdest Search Terms:

our year in review printables

things you should and should not do on a ag doll

josie falling asleep

dolls poetry of dear diary

“house” + “guest post”

upset doll image

dool bogs all famaly in pic

how get 2015 free ag doll package delivered to your house

dog and grl

for christmas i got a home

no american girl dolls in the house

bffs loren and izzy (This one is especially weird, because one of my best friends IRL is named Issy!)

images of waiting girl opening the door

innocent cute latest doll hd

marshmallow jane american girl

Other Stats:

199 posts.

163 followers.

Thank you, everyone — followers, reader, commenters — for making this blog amazing. Thanks. ♥

Here’s to an even better 2016!

–Loren