Once Upon a Time….






3 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: 

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: 

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: 


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.


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.


14 thoughts on “Three Secrets to Great Storytelling!

  1. Admitting something doesn’t belong is always hard, especially if it is otherwise well-written. So the best thing a writer can do to edit his- or herself is to create an Orphans Folder and drop these delicious extras into it, for possible later use in other stories! (Besides, it feels so much better than the delete button…)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. KC, exactly, that is exactly what I do and I am so glad you support that way of dealing with those wonderful extras that we can’t just do away with because they are so good! Karen 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this. We all hate the tension in life but that tension is necessary to make the story interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I agree completely. As writers, we need to write about tension, it is a big part of our human experience and it is what keeps a reader reading our stories. Thank you too. Karen

      Liked by 1 person

  3. These three points are important to concentrate on to improve your own art of story telling, Karen.


    1. Hi Robbie, you are so right, these simple, but important techniques for making a story come alive, are key to good writing for the writer and, most importantly, for the reader. Karen 🙂


  4. frenchc1955 says:

    Karen, thank you for sharing this!


    1. Charles, you are welcome and it is always a good thing to share writing tips to writers everywhere.


  5. dgkaye says:

    Excellent share. Thanks Karen. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Debbie, thank you so much. I like simple things and this is simple, germane, and to the point. I like it. Thank also for sharing it on Facebook. Karen 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. dgkaye says:

        My pleasure Karen. Great piece. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you Debbie! Karen 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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