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How to tell a great Cowbird story — 9 simple steps!

1. Look at some examples.

Before telling your own stories, spend some time exploring other stories on Cowbird, and "love" 10-20 of your favorites. This'll give you a sense of the stories other people are telling, and it's a great way to spread some love and attention to the other authors in the community. A good place to start is with the featured or most loved stories.

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2. Choose a meaningful subject.

When deciding what to tell a story about, try to choose something that you believe no one else has noticed. Something only you can see. Something you find beautiful. Something worth communicating. Something worth teaching.

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3. Use an authentic voice.

Write with an honest, authentic voice. Speak from your heart, and write like you talk. The more candid and open you are, the more your story will resonate with others. People have fine radar for authenticity, and when they sense it, they listen more closely.

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4. Be concise.

As Einstein said, "Make things as simple as can be, but not simpler." Write concisely, try not to ramble, and respect people's time. Even very cb-short stories can resonate deeply. Write just enough.

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5. Include a striking image.

People are drawn to strong visual imagery. Try to add an image to each story you tell. It doesn't have to be an amazing image. It doesn't even have to relate directly to the story. But something visual will really help your story come to life, and will help people imagine the experience you are writing about. Try to upload images that are at least 2000 pixels wide for them to look their best.

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6. Space your paragraphs.

When formatting your text, add a full blank line after each paragraph. This will make your stories less crowded, more legible, and easier on the eye.

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7. Add metadata so people will find your story.

The magic of Cowbird is how it finds connections between different people's stories. For this to work, you need to add metadata to your stories. Add a location, and we'll add an interactive map. Add a date, and we'll add a calendar page. Add tags, and we'll connect your story to similar stories. Add characters, and we'll build you an ever-growing cast of your life.

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8. Add a dedication.

On Cowbird, you can dedicate each story to someone you care about. This is a great way to send a personal, heartfelt gift to someone you love or admire. In doing so, you'll help us create a gift economy of stories, which we think will be more beautiful and nourishing than our standard economy of "stuff".

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9. Explore other media types.

If you're feeling adventurous, try adding sound to your stories (MP3 files 10 MB or less). A striking visual image combined with a well-edited audio track can produce an intimate and even hypnotic effect. For stories with an audio track, use text judiciously, since lots of text and audio at the same time can be overwhelming to the viewer. If you'd like to experiment with this, please read our FAQ entry on how to record audio for your stories.

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How to create a great Cowbird character — 4 simple steps!

1. Add a photo.

When you create a character for someone who's not yet a Cowbird author, the most important thing you can do is to upload a photo for that person. This will go a long way towards humanizing the overall feeling of Cowbird. If you don't have a good photo of the person, then a great approach is to search for their public profile photo on Facebook, download it to your computer, and then upload it to Cowbird.

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2. Add roles.

What does this character do in life? Is he a father, brother, artist, or son? Is she a mother, sister, lover, or journalist? When you add roles to a character (or to yourself), Cowbird will connect that character to other characters who share the same roles. Then you can see fun things like all the stories involving brothers, sisters, nomads, or lovers.

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3. Add a birthplace and location.

Where was this person born? Where does this person live now? When you add a birthplace and location to a character, Cowbird will connect that character to other folks who come from the same place, so you can see fun things like people from Brooklyn, San Francisco, Vermont, and India.

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4. Add an email address.

Adding an email address is a really thoughtful and courteous thing to do. When you add an email address for the character you create, that real-life person will be able to "claim" that character when they sign up for Cowbird. Don't worry — the email address will never be displayed to other people.

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