How to Tell a Story You Don’t Know

by | Storytelling Ideas | 2 comments

This is a guest post from team member Margrethe Aas Johnsen.

Two weeks ago, Kristin Tweedale wrote a great guest article on storytelling. Katie Clemons has also written about the importance of telling your own story. Today I want to share some of my own thoughts on story telling, specifically telling stories that are not about you.


So, what is the best way to go about it? The obvious answer would be to talk to the person whose story you want to tell. But what if that person is no more? I believe all scrapbookers out there are big storytellers, and many of you love telling your family’s story. How can you do that if you don’t know every story in and out?


What I do, is to use photos of my family. For me, creating/scrapbooking is an artistic and creative release. Sometimes it’s not about the story with all its details, crooks and crannies, but the feeling it evokes in me. This layout, for instance, is one of those.


When I made it, I knew I wanted to tell a story, even though there is not much journaling beside the titlework. But for me, it does tell a story. The embellishment I added reminds me of my grandmother. The alphas too, the yellow circle letters are so retro to me, they fit her style. The doily reminds me of the small lace table cloths that frequented every table in her house.

And this photo of my grandmother and my mother… I don’t know the story behind it, but I love her expression; stopping to let my grandfather take her photo while on a stroll, my mother climbing the hill behind her. That’s my family. My grandfather behind the camera, so rarely in front, my grandmother the object and my mom, doing her own thing. That’s the story.


I did the same with another layout. I don’t know where the photo was taken, but as my mother is an only-child, it couldn’t be anyone but her, even though her back is turned to the camera.


That’s exactly what the story of this layout is about – the photo and what feelings it brings out in me. That’s what I journaled about.


So how can you tell your family’s story without knowing everything you wish you did?

  1. Find the photos you want to use.
  2. Make sure you do not use original photos! Scan/photograph them and then print copies!
  3. What story do you want to tell? About what you can see in the photo? About your feelings for your family? Another memory, something you don’t have a photo of? About your life now, compared to theirs?
  4. Find the medium. Is it a scrapbook layout? Is it a photo collage for your home? Something else – a photo banner? Or something else entirely?
  5. Figure out what embellishments, papers, colors you want to use.
  6. Start scrapbooking!

For me, scrapbooking is about storytelling, big and small. Not all stories need to be told through words, and not all stories have to be shown or told to others. Just remember to scrapbook, write, photograph. Whatever the medium, the stories matter.

Editor’s Note: I love how Margrethe brings these beautiful images into her modern storytelling. Have you ever scrapbooked with older photos you didn’t take?

Did you find this post helpful?

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  2. Laura

    I love this, and it’s how I do tend to approach scrapbooking. However, sometimes the story/journal I write is not what others think I should write. This is what happens when the people in the photos ARE still around. Nevertheless, I tell them, these are my thoughts, this is my perspective, this is what I remember and this is what it means to ME. I tell them if they want a different story, to write it themselves. All the same, I know, in the future, what is there to read is what others will know about our time. So I write. Thanks for posting this!


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