Follow that Trail!

Sometimes there are some treasures to be discovered if we follow the crumbs.Hansel_und_Gretel_(1)

We all know the story of Hansel and Gretal, right? No? Well, basically this is a well-known German fairy tale originally published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. When a young brother and sister, Hansel and Gretel, wander into the woods, they take a slice of bread and leave a trail of crumbs to follow home. Brilliant idea, however, the birds eat the crumbs, and they are lost in the woods. We’ll leave the story at that point.

Recently, I spent time following crumbs left by other writers. Thankfully they weren’t eaten by the birds. (The crumbs that is, not the writers. They’re fine.) The crumbs I followed were actually links tucked into posts on blogs and even in comments. This leads me to the question, How often do you follow links in articles?

Certainly, if you followed all the links in some articles, you would never reach the end. I make it a practice to always read the complete piece, then if a link interests me, I go back and follow it. Even then, I am careful to right click and “open link in new window”. That way I don’t lose the referring article until I know I’m finished with it.

The post I was reading was on the Writers on the Move blog and was titled, Why Write a Memoir? Wait! Remember what I said? Read to the end before following those links! The writer, Heidi M. Thomas, speaks about how to capture short snippets of life. I opened the comment section to add a response, and read the other comments. A fellow writer, Mary Jo Guglielmo, had this to say, “I like doing short memoirs or Flash memoirs.” And she added a link.

Hmm. Flash memoirs? I read to the end of the comments and made my own. Then I returned to Mary Jo’s comment and followed her link. This took me to a guest post on the same blog, by yet another writer, Jane Hertenstein. In the second paragraph, Jane wrote,  “Six Minute Magazine is looking for quality fiction that can be read in under six minutes.” And she gave a link.

I finished reading, of course, then returned to that link. I’d never heard of the Six Minute Magazine. It sounded fun. I had a look around their landing page, and then spotted an invitation to “visit our partner website, FLASH FICTION FORUMS.” And you’ve guessed it. Another link!

Intrigued, I clicked on that link, and it took me to a series of forums. I was about to close the window when I spotted a topic that caught my attention: Word Games: Got a word game? Have a short writing game? Share it here with members of the site!

This sounded intriguing so I followed that link to a page full of fun-sounding games. I noticed the topic Three Word Story had 7 pages of comments. How could you write a story in three words? I decided to investigate. The link took me to a post that introduced a new idea like this.  Each poster copy/pastes the previous post then adds three new words to develop the story. The writer then gave the command, “Start!” and then the words, As he was . . .

Those were the initial three words of the story. I glanced ahead and saw the next seven pages were loaded with a gradually unfolding story. What fun!Time to stop following links. I had work to do.
I opened my mail program and commenced an email to my online writers group for South African Christian Writers. I explained how the exercise worked and then issued the command, “Start!” I gave them the words, “The elephant lowered . . . ” and hit send. The result was a fun, if ridiculous, story.

This got me thinking. How often do we miss some real treasures because we don’t follow the trails laid down for us by other writers? Now, I’m not for one second suggesting we click on every link, but maybe we need to glance back at the article when we finish reading it, and see if there are any trails worth investigating. After all, if you’re not a South African Christian Writer, you probably don’t want to follow that link. But sometimes following an almost hidden path could lead to some fascinating online destination.

Just don’t forget to right click and open in a new tab or window so you can find your way home, otherwise the birds might get there first, and you could be lost online. Forever.