Three Secrets to Great Storytelling!

Whispering3 SECRETS TO GREAT STORYTELLING as presented on Writer’s Digest. I found this article by Steven James helpful in forming the structure of scenes.  (this is a re-blogging from 2014 but I thought it deserved a revival now, because it is simple, straightforward, and to the point.)

As a novelist and writing instructor, I’ve noticed that three of the most vital aspects of story craft are left out of many writing books and workshops. Even bestselling novelists stumble over them – Steven James But they’re not difficult to grasp. In fact, they’re easy.And if you master these simple principles for shaping great stories, your writing will be transformed forever. Honest. Here’s how to write a story.

Secret #1: 
CAUSE AND EFFECT ARE KING.

Everything in a story must be caused by the action or event that precedes it.  As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story. But when readers are forced to guess why something happened (or didn’t happen), even for just a split second, it causes them to intellectually disengage and distances them from the story. Rather than remaining present alongside the characters, they’ll begin to analyze or question the progression of the plot. And you definitely don’t want that. When a reader tells you that he couldn’t put a book down, often it’s because everything in the story followed logically. Stories that move forward naturally, cause to effect, keep the reader engrossed and flipping pages. If you fail to do this, it can confuse readers, kill the pace and telegraph your weaknesses as a writer.

Secret #2: 
IF IT’S NOT BELIEVABLE, IT DOESN’T BELONG.  

The narrative world is also shattered when an action, even if it’s impossible, becomes unbelievable. In writing circles it’s common to speak about the suspension of disbelief, but that phrase bothers me because it seems to imply that the reader approaches the story wanting to disbelieve and that she needs to somehow set that attitude aside in order to engage with the story. But precisely the opposite is true. Readers approach stories wanting to believe them. Readers have both the intention and desire to enter a story in which everything that happens, within the narrative world that governs that story, is believable. As writers, then, our goal isn’t to convince the reader to suspend her disbelief, but rather to give her what she wants by continually sustaining her belief in the story. The distinction isn’t just a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of understanding the mindset and expectations of your readers. Readers want to immerse themselves in deep belief. We need to respect them enough to keep that belief alive throughout the story.

Secret #3: 

IT’S ALL ABOUT ESCALATION.  

At the heart of story is tension, and at the heart of tension is unmet desire. At its core, a story is about a character who wants something but cannot get it. As soon as he gets it, the story is over. So, when you resolve a problem, it must always be within the context of an even greater plot escalation. As part of the novel-writing intensives that I teach, I review and critique participants’ manuscripts. Often I find that aspiring authors have listened to the advice of so many writing books and included an engaging “hook” at the beginning of their story. This is usually a good idea; however, all too often the writer is then forced to spend the following pages dumping in background to explain the context of the hook.

IN CONCLUSION

By consistently driving your story forward through action that follows naturally, characters who act believably, and tension that mounts exponentially, you’ll keep readers flipping pages and panting for more of your work.

 

6 thoughts on “Three Secrets to Great Storytelling!

  1. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative
    and amusing, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is something too few men and women are speaking
    intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this
    in my hunt for something regarding this.

    Like

    1. Hi there,

      I am glad you liked the article from Writer’s Digest. I found it very helpful and very well said. I am in the process of writing two novels in very different genres and thus, I keep referring to this article. It has become part of my Writer’s Bible. Thank you for commenting.

      Like

  2. I agree; I took some notes, too. It all sounds so easy on paper, which is probably a pun, but it’s a little different to put some of that into practice. Or, what it requires is practice, and stumbling into this is exactly why I wanted to read all of these things.

    Like

      1. =D! I’m trying. My biggest issue is self-doubt, the biggest monster, I guess, as it can relate to many other things. One little step at a time, still overwhelming, but the possibilities of reaching so many…
        It is something that I have to learn to do, to write, happily, is something I need to do! I wish you the best of luck, brightest of futures!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Justin, trust yourself. You are a writer and a good one too. We get better at writing the more we write and our confidence level grows. I never regret or feel bad about whatever I write, even the grammatical mistakes, they are correctable. I am learning too. You write far better than I. Other writers will see the intent, less the product. I am not here to be perfect, but maybe one day I will be the best I can be and that is what really matters. Writing is fun, let it be that way and enjoy it. Karen 🙂

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s